Lodinews.com

default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
|
||
Logout|My Dashboard

Ralph Womack Take heart: One person can make a difference when dealing with youths

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Ralph Womack

Posted: Saturday, April 21, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 1:25 pm, Wed Apr 25, 2012.

First, folks can relax and realize that they can make a difference, and secondly, it isn't very complex when it comes to what youths need.

Youths need our time, and also to have responsible adults in their lives who model the behaviors we would expect them to exhibit. Probably a good place to start would be for anyone who is fearful of just what it means for our youths to be influenced by gangs to simply talk with them.

I have found that if you get past whatever it is that gives you that first bad impression, whether it be saggy pants, loud talk within groups of youths, etc., under it all is still a kid.

Where do kids gather? If it is in your neighborhood or you see them in other areas, then come out of the comfort zone and make contact with some youths.

I don't imply that you should take unnecessary risks; I mean that whenever you see youths and the opportunity to talk with them exists, then take that opportunity. Just a "How's it going?" will start a conversation. You will be surprised when you get a friendly (or at least not an aggressive) answer.

Don't be surprised to get a one-word answer like "fine" — but you have broken the ice. Then what I've found out works is to then keep it as a series of non-threatening questions, with real concern.

Example: "You know, when I was younger, I worried about a lot of things, but today it seems young people have a lot more to worry about, like guns and violence. What do you think causes all this mess?" If they walk away and do not want to engage you in conversation, fine.

Next time you see them, try again and say that you are only asking questions so you can understand what is going on, and that you would like them to help you figure it out. It is important to resist the urge to argue that what they say makes no sense. You may very well have the opportunity at a later time to counter that belief; however, it is important for you to first hear what they have to say.

More than once, I have started out an exit door at a store with a youngster going out ahead of me who you might think was "thug-like." I am no longer surprised, however, when they hold the door or say "thank you" if I hold it for them. I actually now look for the opportunity to say "hi" or start a conversation. I find it much more often positive than negative.

Obviously this would not work on hardened gang members, but remember that the younger ones are not there yet, and are still deciding what to believe or not. Your kindness and legitimate outreach can open them up to an understanding that there are more people out there who care what happens to them than those who don't.

Talk with folks who deal with youngsters all the time. Perhaps drop in to the Boys & Girls Club; watch the kids play and talk to the staff who work to provide them positive alternatives. You might be invited to help these kids by volunteering at the club.

I often say that kindergarten is a metaphor for life and a reason to wonder. When you see young kids all together in a room with toys, they do what? They play. They are not inhibited by bias, hate or unnecessary anger.

If you show you care, the responses can be quite enlightening. Youngsters need activities to stay engaged and away from negative behavior. And yes, you can make a difference. Sponsor a youth for a sport, sponsor a program or activity at a church, or the Boys & Girls Club, and actively be involved in making it happen. It does not take a lot of funding to get kids busy.

Another thing to remember is that every young person is an individual, and if you get to know them, you will find out what the "hook" is to engage them — so perhaps take them fishing (no pun intended).

Is there a local fisherman or group of fishermen who would be willing to take a few youngsters out on the Delta for a day of fishing or start a fishing club? Is there a golfer who would like to introduce an adolescent to the game?

My outreach team has found that the youths who think they like to fight are often open to getting into organized boxing or karate. The transformation can be amazing. At first the youths think they will get to fight. However, the boxing instructor or sensei will wisely be teaching them so much more: things like responsibility, dependability and ... respect.

Be creative, but be involved.

There are so many youths who lack a positive adult in their life that you might think it is overwhelming. My philosophy is to provide help to one youth at a time.

My last comment is about how a concerned citizen can easily find other concerned citizens with a common desire to keep youths from getting into gangs. Together, that small cadre of caring adults can brainstorm numerous strategies to make a positive impact on youths. Being creative also means getting other ideas that will create synergy and excitement in a group.

Adopt a park or street and perhaps hire a few youths to keep it clean, or have them organize a barbeque. There are no easy or quick answers, and obviously, dealing with the hardcore gang members is more of a challenge. However, all the hardcore members were at one time kids who would be willing to play with others without bias, hate or unnecessary anger, which are all learned responses.

Through the actions and examples set by responsible adults, the younger kids will not doomed to the same.

One individual can make the difference.

Ralph Womack is a Lodi Unified School District trustee, a retired Stockton police captain, and director of the Operation Peacekeeper gang prevention program in Stockton.

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don’t pretend you’re someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don’t threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don’t insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the ‘Report’ link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.
  • 9 Don’t be a troll.
  • 10 Don’t reveal personal information about other commenters. You may reveal your own personal information, but we advise you not to do so.
  • 11 We reserve the right, at our discretion, to monitor, delete or choose not to post any comment. This may include removing or monitoring posts that we believe violate the spirit or letter of these rules, or that we otherwise determine at our discretion needs to be monitored, not posted, or deleted.

Welcome to the discussion.

Recent Comments

Posted 8 hours ago by Mike Adams.

article: Letter: People need to respect police o…

Taser? Baton? Pepper spray? Evasion? Swarm? Any of these familiar? How about falling back and deescalation ? Call for help? Why d…

More...

Posted 9 hours ago by Ed Walters.

article: Letter: Evil is always present

Tillett: Actually I was wrong both ways, neither Soul or Sole are correct. A book written by Marcus Luttrell that was tilted "Lone Su…

More...

Posted 11 hours ago by Christina Welch.

article: Letter: Voters should focus on a new di…

Goodness knows I'm on your side, Kevin. I think proportional representation is a great idea, but I'm not sure how it would work in the U.S…

More...

Posted 12 hours ago by Eric Barrow.

article: California adds new rule for passing bi…

Would just hate to see you paying those fines Ed. You know Ed big rigs pay far more in road taxes than a car does, do you feel you should g…

More...

Posted 12 hours ago by Kevin Paglia.

article: Letter: People need to respect police o…

I don't know Mike, seeing the rash of BAD choices from drivers lately has got me siding more and more with the cops needing STRICTER enforc…

More...

Video

Popular Stories

Poll

Loading…

Your News

News for the community, by the community.

Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists