Yesterday a friend invited me to speak to a group of ninth and tenth boys at a local high school here in Minneapolis, MN. I had such an awesome time! The class was full of energy and excitement as they came into the room wanting to show me the “beats” they had come up with. I truly enjoyed myself.
I have a few things that stood out to me as I was recapping my short time with them. I would like to share some of them with you…
- Community – It is so important to create a space for adolescents to feel like they have a place to express themselves in a manner that is true to them. We create this atmosphere by stepping into their world and asking questions, but also allowing them to ask us questions, sometimes personal and unrelated to current topics or flow of the academic space we are present in.
- Attention – As I spoke for a short time about my life story and the obstacles that I encountered in middle school and high school, I was blessed by their desire to be captivated. Young people are eager to learn. They want someone to give them information. They want someone to care enough to tell them the tough truths and disprove their imaginative beliefs from hearsay. They also want someone who understands them and who is willing to answer questions without judgment and consequence.
- Reality – This group of young men was diverse and a ‘melting pot’ representation of the racial makeup of the city. Unfortunately, the reality is that within a group like this there are likely to be some who do not graduate high school. Statistics suggest that the young men who do not make are more likely to be young men of color. During my time there, I was repeatedly interrupted by a young man who I see similarities to students in every school I’ve ever stepped foot in. This young man came from a difficult home situation like mine, unstable and constantly changing. He is the funny guy in the group, and while that sometimes is popular, being the funny guy usually is a façade that kids put on to cover some up. I didn’t get to spend much time with him, but I did get a chance to listen to his story a little, and had the opportunity to tell him that it is possible to be the funny guy and be successful.
With the current events happening in our country surrounding young men or color, I hope and pray that we are investing in our young people. No matter what age, gender, or geographic setting, our young people need to see community, know that they have ourattention, and be given a clear dose of reality and reminded about what success looks like, as well as failure.