“They need to know that we care about them” - Nate Martin, February 28th, 2013 on our youth in Rockford
During the 2013 Black History Month celebration Thursday night at City Hall, there was one man that stood out to me more than the others as he spoke. It was his message, his proven commitment as a community leader, his vision for our youth in Rockford.
In front of a crowd of about…let’s say…50 people that included Mayor Morrissey and Robert King, Nate Martin of the Rockford Park District stressed his concern that the youth cannot be forgotten. “We MUST let our youth know we care about them”. He gripped the podium with both hands, written speech unlooked upon because the words he had poured from his heart. And I could feel it.
So it made me think: We should let our youth know that we care for them.
Yeah, yeah. We put on community events for the families. We encourage active community members to bring their young siblings, nieces and nephews, their own children to events. Yet how many children in Rockford are left unaffected by the positive influences in our Rockford community? How many children don’t experience the music and soul that comes even in a poverty-stricken neighborhood? How many boys are there that never learn to fish? How many students never learn to read, or write, or do math, or create chaos in the science lab, or just have a positive social interaction because their influences are only made up of false hopes, true horrors, and a double dose of disintegration?
In this case, I feel the minority population is the children who DO have positive influences. The kind of influences that make a child feel like they are worth something more than just a bleak future and unpaid rent bills. So what about the majority?
Let’s face it: Children in Rockford don’t have positive role models in their lives. A lot of parents, unfortunately, are still children themselves in a sense, bearing a child before their mental level has increased to that of adulthood. The child grows up parented by an inexperienced life-experiencer (make sense?).
And what about the parents who are GREAT parents, but due to the facts of life, such as paying bills, working, providing shelter and food, are unable to spend that quality time with their child who needs that extra social interaction between…someone who knows, and someone who doesn’t know about the perils of life.
Maslow’s hierarchy is more than just one level, folks. After providing basic needs such as food and water, the next level is having security of the mind and body, as well as health and family. The third level (which I believe should be the 2nd level in a children’s world) is the issue that I feel Rockford’s youth may be having.
“Belonging” is missing in our neighborhoods between our children. Sometimes as I drive or walk through areas of Rockford, I sense an urgency to tell a child that there are better things in the world away from the crime and the drugs that they see every day. A child who sees these things grows up believing the world is as gray as a rainy sky, and lacks the colors of life that the planet actually has reserved.
What can we do? Because our children need to know that we care about them. I always had an idea, and I will lay it out below for everyone to pick away at.
WHERE ARE THE ROLE MODELS??
In the past year or so I have met some extremely talented people who have had a positive impact on my life. In the next year or so, I plan to meet even more. But if there is one thing missing in the Rockford community (and correct me, please), I think it is a solely dedicated force of Role Models that voluntarily reach out to children in need through schools and through neighborhoods.
When I was a child, every day after school from 1st to 5th grade, I was a part of an after school program. We played games, basketball, played on the playground, listened to music, and bonded with each other; students and advisors. The advisors had relationships with us; one of my own, believe it or not, caused my first passion in life: basketball. He played ball with me every day, critiqued my game, and offered me advice. He once said to me: “If there is one thing you should do, it’s never give up. Practice, Practice, Practice.” I never became a pro basketball player, but the fact that he cared enough about my then-current passion allowed me to develop later in my years a need to always strive for what I love.
WHERE ARE THE ROLE MODELS?
After-school programs have been hurt recently in the community through disappearing funds to lack of enthusiasm for such a program.
What organizations out there would support a voluntarily based effort in letting our children know that we care? Because passions are but forgotten weeds if not given the right amount of nutrients.
Where are the citizens who always feel like they want to make a difference, but don’t know how? Because if you want to make a difference in the grand scheme of things, you must start with making a difference in the people who will be making differences after we are all gone.
I know that there are after-school programs, but it takes money for the workers, money from the child’s guardians, support from the school district, and I am sure other various factors go into successfully implementing a program.
I am no expert in making things happen. But I do want to do more for the kids who don’t have that one person that they need to push them towards their potential. If after school programs aren’t possible, how can we reach the kids?
We have to hit their classrooms during school hours. We need to get teachers on board with an organization that will allow the classrooms to be held hostage by “Game Changers”, the Black History Month event’s theme describing people who are making a difference in the community. We need to recruit children in our neighborhoods to form gangs of glory that don’t build on principles of mischief and greed, but build on principles of love and togetherness. My dream one day, is to possibly be a part of an organization that focuses solely on children in need, not just by providing them behind-the-scenes support through funds or promotions, but by being in the front lines with them as they deal with everyday life struggles…the same struggles all of us experienced life-experiencers have experienced (hehe, I like that).
We don’t want our children to fall victim to the same “miserability” that Rockford has been placed with. Instead of letting them be influenced by the negatives: crime, drugs, greed, and violence, let’s influence them through positives: passions, interests, love, music, art, education.
Is anyone with me? Because it only takes a handful of snowflakes to create a snowball. Rockford needs a shield, a somewhat form of armor.
Perhaps we could be just that: RMOR – Role Models of Rockford