Finally! Youths are getting a chance—a chance to change things, to speak up and to matter. The Gazette article “Youths invited to advise Tobin” [JP Gazette, Feb. 2] provides optimism in the ever-worsening world of youth in this city.
As City Councilor John Tobin has realized, speaking with youths is the best way to answer some of Boston’s toughest questions. Too often, authorities see the kids as culprits, instead of realizing that they are actually the victims of much larger social problems. It is easy to blame the student who’s ditching school instead of asking him why he’s doing it. (Is he scared? Does he feel unsafe?) The adults dodge the root of the problem and hold the kids responsible. After all, aren’t they the easiest people to blame?
It’s time for a new approach. How can we get to the bottom of gang violence? How can we understand school dropouts? How can we keep kids off the street?
We ask them. We sit them down with government officials and let them talk. And we listen. Not only will this give officials important input, it will also keep kids off of the streets. So many youths run to destructive activities like gangs because they want to be a part of something. (Can we really blame them for wanting to feel important?) All day they hear: “Shut up. Sit down. You’re wrong. Do what I say.” It’s hard to feel valuable when nobody encourages you and everybody doubts you. For many kids, self-medicating with drugs and gangs and truancy is easy. Feeling valid and important is not. This is where Tobin has gotten it right. Not only is he gaining valuable insight into the lives of Boston’s most underappreciated demographic, he is also giving these kids a voice. And this opportunity might just be what saves them.
The writer works at the Hispanic Office of Planning and Evaluation (HOPE)
in Jamaica Plain.