Insight About Students and What They Need

One of the benefits of me being here, and working with kids and leaders in the after school program,is getting to meet so many people in the school system. They are able to share so much insight with me, that would take a long time for me to observe on my own. For example, Marvin Love (a teacher, playwright, councilman, and fellow staff person) has been a huge asset and a great friend. Here is a summary of what I learned from another guy who works for the school system.

The Man

I have had a chance to connect with one particular man a few times, talking about sports, education, and our own families. I hope to continue to talk with him occasionally, both for the sake of me learning about this area, and for my own need for community.

He is from this part of the state originally. One of the first things he said was, “Kids here in Allendale are different than in the surrounding areas.” Actually, I’ve heard this idea from a number of different sources, regarding both students and adults. It’s not that the issues are different, but these issues are to an extreme that is very different than the counties around us.

The Issues He Sees

Here are a few core issues that he sees:

  • Boys (and girls to a lesser extent) look up to the guys who are doing the wrong things, like dealing drugs, dropping out of school, having lots of sex.
  • With a high unemployment rate (greater than 25%), boys don’t see dads (and moms) working. They don’t have an image of what it looks like to do something constructive.
  • Teen pregnancy is critical. He estimated about 15-20 pregnancies this past year in a high school of about 200-230 girls. Think about it, that’s about 1 of every 12 teen girls having babies.
  • Kids in high school tend to treat their moms (most have no dad in the picture) as their peer, not as an authority. Therefore, it “makes sense” for them to not treat teachers and other leaders with respect. I saw this firsthand at where I work, with a 5th grade boy, with whom I had issues with every week early on. His final day in the program, he started a fight right in front of his mom, and she never said a word. Then, he called me a “nigger” (ha ha ha) right in front of his mom, and she never said a word. I told her that he cannot come back until the three of us have a conference, and I haven’t heard from her again. I bet that he, at all of 11 years of age, basically runs the show at home. So the next logical step was that he thought he could run the show anywhere he goes. Not in my house.

The Solution He Proposes

When I asked what he thought we needed, to change the mindset of this next generation, his response was quick and clear. We need mentors. He would love to see a coalition of men and women who could spend time listening to and talking with these kids. These young kids need someone who cares about them. For some, this will be in lieu of what the parents are not doing. For others, this is about mentors who are coming alongside what the parents are teaching and modeling.

We need men to tell boys that when they are fathers, they need to stay connected to their own kids, instead of being passive and abandoning their families. We need men and women to tell kids to not get pregnant as teenagers. We need mentors to show kids how to take responsibility and give back.

Pray that God would raise up a harvest of leaders.

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