More Money For Mentoring
George L. Garrow, Executive Director
National Organization of
Concerned Black Men
I read with interest your article on national funding for mentoring (“Wanted: More Militant Mentors for Mentoring,” November). There is so much lip service on this subject by politicians from both sides of the aisle, but no money to back up the talk.
Everybody embraces the idea, but nobody wants to put up the modest dollars that it will take to do the job correctly. I say “modest” because the dollars spent mentoring youth pale in comparison to the trouble caused by directionless youth.
Concerned Black Men has 22 chapters around the country, and we do direct-service work with young people throughout the nation. It simply is not understood that doing mentoring correctly costs money.
When our nation’s leaders think of “mentoring,” unfortunately, they think about some cost-free solution to complex problems. They have little knowledge of what it takes to manage, recruit, train and organize mentors. They give us what I call “T-shirt” money for mentoring – $500 here or $1,000 there – to work in communities with tens of thousands of kids.
We have more to do to educate those in leadership about the issue. Mentoring and volunteerism can be used as powerful societal tools, but as with anything done right, it takes time, thought and resources.
Making Every Child Matter
Michael Petit, President
Every Child Matters
Thanks for your profile of our organization, Every Child Matters (Nose Knows, December/January). The article quoted a few people who wondered whether our efforts made much difference in the Arkansas and Colorado elections.
Our efforts were not meant to influence the outcome of either election but to test three objectives and learn from them for future elections.
First, could non-education-related children’s issues be interjected into elections and make them something candidates talk about? Second, could a team of political consultants – pollsters, direct-mail operaters, get-out-the-vote specialists, media buyers and film producers – be brought together around children’s issues? Third, could serious money be raised to publicize poor voting records on kids issues?
We believe all three objectives were met as measured by the press coverage the issue received, the large amount of money raised in a short period, and the high quality work produced by our team of consultants.
Additionally, our polling confirmed the public’s interest in children and family policies and their desire for politicians to talk about [those policies]. Further, the press in both the states, and the candidates themselves, had a lot to say about our efforts – some good and some bad.
The point was not so much whether people liked what we were doing, but whether there’s a future in politics for kids’ issues. Clearly there is, and we intend to press the point in the early presidential primary states in 2003 and in both the presidential race and selected Senate and House campaigns in 2004.
Every Child Matters is committed to raising the visibility of children’s issues in federal elections and providing the information voters need to hold elected officials accountable for their voting records on children. News stories out of Washington each day confirm the ease with which children’s issues are elbowed off the table.
The Gifts of Service-Learning
Director of Service-Learning
School District of Philadelphia
I am glad Youth Today ran an article on service-learning (“Service-Learning Sits in School,” November), because it deserves more attention as a positive force in young people’s lives. But, as the director of service-learning for a major urban school district, I am disappointed that your portrait of service-learning in school settings is not more accurate. Absent in your story are the real gifts service-learning brings to students, schools and communities.
Over the past two decades, service-learning has emerged as a powerful pedagogy whose time has come. When well implemented, service-learning supports students’ learning and development along many important dimensions, including academic engagement, active citizenship and work preparation. In addition, service-learning helps to link community institutions in new ways for 21st century needs.
Service-learning advocates are engaged in an intensive effort to expand the use of service-learning and make it stronger. We hope that Youth Today and its readers will join us in open dialogue about how to advance high-quality service-learning as a core element of the educational experience of every K-12 student.
Youth Voting: The Real Problem
David Burd, former intern
National Collaboration for Youth
West Nyack, NY
As someone interested in voting and youth issues (I have been involved with the Younger Americans Act and with Save the Children’s YouthNOISE), I wrote my senior research paper on youth voting. [See “The Youth Vote: Why Bother?” December/January.] My research suggested that the lack of voting has little to do with the act of voting itself.
There are fundamental reasons youth don’t get involved in politics, leading them to not vote, volunteer on campaigns, etc.
These include a sense that government is irrelevant to their lives, a lack of trust in politicians and a belief that they can’t really make a difference through the political process. These feelings preclude most kinds of political involvement by making participation in almost any form seem futile.
Voting [rates] can only be improved in the long run if we address these more fundamental issues, instilling a greater belief in the political process among young people. Altering the way schools, candidates, the media and parents discuss and cover politics and elections is a way to do that. Advocating a hands-on civics education class in every high school to address these issues is one step that can be taken in this direction.
Otherwise, we’re just spinning our wheels. While I admire the effort and support the funding that foundations, organizations and activists have put forth to address the issue of youth voting, I think this work is sometimes short-sighted. Efforts to increase voting itself, such as through calling and knocking on doors of voters, misses the larger objective of creating a more involved and deliberative democracy, settling instead for the short-term (if more measurable) goal of physically impelling young people to vote in a given election.
I hope that, just as a doctor prescribes antibiotics to fight an infection rather than Tylenol after Tylenol to relieve fever resulting from that infection, youth-friendly foundations and activists spend more time addressing the fundamental issues that cause a lack of youth voting, rather than spending year after year targeting the lack of voting that results from these unresolved issues.
The Truth About ‘Cease Fire’
Jim Jordan, Director
Office of Strategic Planning and
Boston Police Department
In his September column, Andrew Hahn relied on incorrect facts and information to draw some incorrect conclusions about recent events in Boston. He concluded that Boston’s collaborative violence intervention efforts that go forward under the banner of Operation Cease Fire had “largely ceased.” As a result, he asserted, “Boston homicide rates for young people are significantly rising again.” Both conclusions are wrong.
In 2002, we saw five homicide victims under the age of 16. Two were killed by firearms, compared with none killed with firearms in 1996 and one in 1997.
The Boston Police and partners are deeply concerned about any homicide, especially when the victim is a child. Still, we believe that the facts do not bear out the notion that the streets are out of control.
In 2002, Boston experienced a 31-year low in reported violent crime. Also, the city experienced a 22 percent decrease in shootings in 2002 as compared with 2001. Shootings were down over 70 percent in 2002 as compared with 1993.
Regarding Operation Cease Fire, the reader might assume that the mounting of an Operation Cease Fire intervention in the 1990s always resulted in deterrence. This is not true.
Through Cease Fire, individuals are given a clear choice: Stop the shooting, and we will do all in our power to help you out of the gang life. Continue, and we will do all in our power to see you prosecuted swiftly and severely. The message is delivered by a united front of cops, clergy, federal and local prosecutors, and probation, parole, department of youth services and youth outreach workers.
The success of the program is measured as equally by the many violent gangs and individuals who were put out of business by enforcement operations as it is by the numbers of individuals who respond to the positive offer.
Cease Fire is alive and well. It also has inspired a number of important innovations, responding to new circumstances and addressing unsolved shootings, offender re-entry and other issues. As a recent editorial in the Boston Globe (Oct. 19, 2002) said of these new efforts, “There is some thinking in Boston that the police have lost the focus that earned them national accolades for crime reduction in the 1990s. But recent initiatives suggest that the department is living on more than past glory.”
Gerald Boston, Outreach Director
YMCA of Florida’s First Coast
For the past year I have had the opportunity to read and use as a guide your publication. I have become more in tune with what was happening around the country with youth and youth workers, I have gained much insight about where to go for special help for being more effective with my own youth work, and I have been able to connect with others who were having some of the same issues I was having with my work. Thank you for being there for all of us who give their lives to our nation’s youth.
Youth Today welcomes comments by mail or e-mail. All letters must include the author’s name, job description or other connection to the youth work field, and phone number or e-mail address. Please send to: Letters to Editor, Youth Today, 1200 17th St. NW, 4th Fl., Washington, DC 20036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.