By: Barb Zakszewski
Is our Nation falling apart? Mobs of teens and young adults are terrorizing their cities on an almost nightly basis. A mob in California stormed a small gas station, looting and trashing the place, and leaving the single employee hiding in the bathroom, afraid for his life. In Chicago, a “teen takeover” of the downtown area. Looting, vandalism, people beaten in their cars, a young woman assaulted by a mob of angry teens. Are they becoming domestic terrorists? WHAT is happening in these cities? According to newly elected Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, these teens are simply acting out, they are not to be demonized as they are “starved of opportunities” available to many others. We are seeing this type of mob violence throughout our country. Aside from actually prosecuting crimes committed by these young teens, what can be done so teens are not starved of opportunities?
In my town, several years ago, a task force of community leaders and officials was formed to address this question. Their answer: Throw hundreds of thousands of dollars at these problems by reinventing wheels that are already in place, programs and training run by businesses and churches that stand ready and willing to help.
One supposition was for Section 8 and other government housing programs. Why push costly and inefficient government programs? While decent housing is certainly a weapon in the war on crime, why not work with Habitat for Humanity and other non-profits that are already working to address these issues. Check your area to see if Habitat is not already working on projects? Push to work with them on more affordable housing communities and other projects.
What about jobs? In my city, when presented with companies offering real jobs and opportunities wanting to come to our area, all we heard from community leaders were howls of protest about “dirty Jobs”. Those “dirty Jobs” people turn their noses up at were good paying, high-quality, high-tech manufacturing jobs with excellent futures. Most WILL provide training to those who are willing to put in the time to train and learn. Check out companies and associations in your city that might offer paid training, new skills that lead to good paying jobs with good futures. Employers get trained, productive, and contributing employees. Other training programs are also available, and MANY are paid for by potential employers or commercial associations. These programs offer job and life skills that will transfer from job to job. Not everyone is cut out to be an unemployed French poetry or Women’s studies major.
Find top employers or new commercial venues in your city to explore training and hiring opportunities, which are there for the asking. Many hospitals offer training opportunities leading to fulfilling careers. Work with your local colleges or even the Chamber of Commerce to seek out opportunities instead of creating new, expensive, and unproven government programs. Nothing is quick or easy; teens will need to work hard and be patient! People must be willing to learn and show respect to employers and teachers.
Education and jobs go hand in hand; As for Education opportunities, don’t wait for them, go out and get them. Work with your School Board and school parent organizations. Reach out to local churches and organizations and see what they are willing to do, or already doing, without having a carrot of taxpayer money dangled in front of them. Stop the duplicate efforts of programs already in place, tripping over each other in the process. Stop making excuses, “I can’t”; “I’m poor”; “people are racist”; “no one will give me a chance”. THESE are the type of excuses that stop a productive life in its tracks. Check out Junior Achievement, which according to its website “fosters work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and uses experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential”. They also provide the training, materials, and support necessary to bolster the chances for student success. Businesspeople and other volunteers share their workforce experience with students, all while teaching sound economic principles and reinforcing class curricula.
If you really want to help these teens, stop throwing out generic and non-specific feel-good programs. Stop excusing mob behavior and start demanding accountability from our teens. Stop holding conferences and forums where self-important theories are discussed, but nothing ever gets done. There is no reason anyone should be “starved for opportunities.” Instead, investigate real-world solutions for these problems, solutions that are already in place, and stand ready to serve if asked. There is a cornucopia of opportunity; start feasting on the banquet.
Will these recommendations end crime, violence, and mob takeovers of our cities? Probably not a lot of it, or even some of it. But are they worth a try? Definitely!