Letter: Remember Kenny by helping youths

On Sun., Oct. 16, 2011, Kenny Soto, a 19-year old Jamaica Plain resident, was killed in front of a local convenience store. Kenny had spent over 10 years in various programs at the Hyde Square Task Force, a JP-based youth community development organization.

We at the Hyde Square Task Force are struggling to deal with this tragic loss. Starting in his elementary years, Kenny participated in our after-school programs and he had grown into an active youth leader. He knocked on doors encouraging local residents to vote in our Vote 4 Me Campaign, and he helped organize cultural events at Mozart Park that attracted hundreds of youth and their families. He tutored young children at the Kennedy after-school program—the very program he had grown up in. Kenny loved baseball and was a popular player in JP’s Regan Youth League for many years. Most recently, he transitioned into the Hyde Square Task Force’s College Success Program, where he completed his high school credit recovery. Just a few weeks before he was killed, with the support of family, friends, neighbors and a mentor, Kenny completed his application to college. His acceptance letter from Bunker Hill Community College arrived a couple of days before the tragic incident. He was ecstatic about the opportunity to go to college and was looking forward to starting in January.

Kenny was a kind, caring and generous young man who had worked hard to clear a path for his future. He exuded warmth and a love of life that made him well-known throughout the neighborhood. His smile created joy wherever he went. He will be remembered as a respectful young man who was loved by his peers.

As we struggle to cope with the loss, we are celebrating his life and also aware of the work that needs to continue throughout our urban community. The loss of Kenny is an unfortunate reminder that all of the youths in our neighborhoods are in harm’s way, which is clearly unacceptable. Now is a time to reflect on the lives of youths in our City and to better understand the causes and effects of violence and the difficulties teens face in getting through each day. We encourage all to develop a relationship with a young person and demonstrate that there are adults who care—either formally as a volunteer in an organization, or through reaching out to a neighbor.

The challenge in front of us is enormous. However, we have no choice but to continue to work towards creating a safe and loving environment that all young people deserve to grow up in.

Claudio Martinez, Executive Director

Youths, Staff & Board, Hyde Square Task Force 

Jamaica Plain

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