So, me and you (yo’ momma and yo’ cousin too) helped my main homie President-Elect Barack Obama make his way into the White House. Now that we all have attended the rallies, bought the buttons and downed shots at the word “maverick” in debates, we have to get down to business. My “Towards A More Perfect Union” series will look at what we (the people we have been waiting for) can do to help Obama get this country on the right track. You down? Cool, let’s go.
GOAL: Empowering Youth
REASON: Whitney said it best, the children are our future. Young people right now are in the middle of a toxic intersection of easy (and often wrong/misleading) information via the internet, an embarrassingly inadequate public school system, extreme financial instability for their families due to the plummeting economy and layoffs announced by the thousands almost daily, mind numbing (literally) music that does little more than encourage virtual sex on the dancefloor and conspicuous consumption and to top it all off, we are pillaging the earth at record speed due to our need to fill up plastic monster trucks for the rough terrain of suburan cul-de-sacs. The rugrats of today will be running this country tomorrow, so we have to make sure they are as spiritually, intellectually, morally and physically prepared as possible to take on the enormous task of being productive world citizens. Doing this helps our main homie Obama because as we set an example for the young people, we will simultaneously be contributing to making the American Dream a reality. Plus, we have to make sure Obama 2.0 is in the making. Click on the link below to see a few concrete ways we can work towards the goal of empowering youth.
Become a mentor
Having a concrete, in-the-flesh role model is an invaluable resource for anyone (not even just kids). This is something we all know instinctively, but not enough of us actually get out and do it. Those of us who are heavy on the grind lament not having the time to mentor, but there are programs like iMentor that require relatively little time, but still have an impact because the program is designed specifically for the busy young professional. Of course there are old time favorites like Big Brothers Big Sisters. You can also try schools in your area and local recreation centers. Now is a great time to begin searching for a good mentoring program because the new semester starts in January. You could seriously change the course of someone’s life by volunteering your time for a few hours a month. Over the years, I’ve been involved in a number of mentoring programs (as mentee and mentor) and some experiences were better than others, but they were all worth it. Click here to find out about mentoring opportunities near you.
Keep in touch with your little cousins ,nieces and nephews
With all this talk about being a mentor to a kid you don’t know, don’t forget about the kids in your own family! I don’t know about you, but I have a gang of nieces, nephews and cousins. Though I am oh so thankful that sites like MySpace and Facebook did not exist in my school days, I am glad they are here now. Through those sites, I’m able to get a glimpse into their lives and stay abreast with what’s going on with them whether it’s a new boyfriend, college applications, a new favorite song or whatever. It’s good to be around and let them know that I am a resource and I hope they consider me to be a positive person in their lives. You might be the only person telling your little cousin that she can be an award-winning filmmaker if she’s willing to work for it and just having that encouragement could be just what she needs.
If you’re up for a little public speaking, why not volunteer for career day at a local school? I think things like this are especially important for people of color who come from not so great neighborhoods. Kids in those schools that have been “left behind” are in serious need of encouragement and more than other kids, they really need to see people who look like themselves being successful. You know what else you could do? You could volunteer at the local high school to help kids with college applications. From talking to my nieces and nephews in Detroit, I’ve come to understand how few resources a lot of public schools have and having counselors at the ready for college prep advice one of the first things to go if money has to be used towards getting graduation rates above 50 percent and cutting down on school shootings. Call your local school and find out how you can be most useful.
There are a million ways to empower youth. These are just three things. Feel free to add your own ideas or if you actually follow through with these objectives, let me know how it’s going!