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I am a teacher. Most of the kids I work with are no longer in school, but I see them on a fairly regular basis. Recently one of the young men was shot and killed in a gang related drive by shooting. Understandably, the boys are having a difficult time dealing with their loss. Do you have any advice for helping my boys grieve? It is difficult for them to show emotion.

Thank You, Trish

Trish:

I have worked with young gang members for the past 16 years, both in and out of the juvenile justice system. One of the hardest things about the work we do is to see the senseless death of a young person, and to empathize with the friends they left behind, while at the same time wanting to do everything in our power to prevent further damage which could result from efforts to retaliate.

These young people are hurting, and sometimes the family of the victim blames the friends, especially if they are gang members, for the loss. I have attended more than one funeral where the family of the deceased refused to allow gang friends to attend the memorial services. In one case, the friends were given an incorrect time for the burial, and when they arrived, the body had already been interred. The friends felt betrayed and angry, not to mention the fact that they were denied closure when they attempted to pay their last respects to their friend.

What I have found helpful was to give the friends a way to memorialize the deceased. Provide a time and place where the friends can gather and talk about the good times--more than once, if they need it. Maybe have them do some creative work--drawings, poems or raps, letters to the one they lost, a collage of photos. Have them play music that has special meaning to them or reminds them of their loved one. (I like the song "I'll Be There" by The Escape Club) Perhaps help them put together a memorial booklet containing some of the poems, stories, letters, favorite prayers or song lyrics, photos and drawings that the friends provide. I have done this twice--once I worked with the family, and once with the young gang members. Both times, the booklets became treasured keepsakes, and were able to be sent to other friends and relatives who were incarcerated or otherwise unable to be present to pay their last respects.

I think the important thing is to give the young people a way to express their grief in a way that will bring healing, not further grief. A common reaction is to want to hurt the "enemies" even more than they were hurt. Of course, they don't consider the consequences--triggering an endless chain of retaliation, arrest, prison and pain. Juvenile hall is no longer an option in most gang-related shootings, and mandatory sentencing in California, and other states, as well, means that all involved may do the same time, with additional time if it's gang-related or for use of a firearm.

Trish, I commend you for caring so deeply for these young people. I wish we could send the message to our communities and our legislators that mentoring, jobs and instilling hope, not indefinite incarceration, is the best deterrent to youth crime.

I wish more people would be willing to provide the role models and opportunities that you are providing, and to see these youth as individuals, not as "gangsters." It has been my experience that many troubled youth can deal with hate--they're used to it. But when approached with unconditional love, they are disarmed--they don't know what to do with that! And they respond to it in a way that is beyond what anyone expects. Keep up the good work.

Regards - Phyllis
California


Dear Trish:

How are you doing? Well, I hope that you are in the best of God's loving sight. Trish, before I start, let me say that I respect and admire you for being there for these young kids in trouble. I read your message and was touched by your words. Trish, I know where you're coming from and I know how those kids feel becaus I lost a lot of my homeboys and cousins in a drive-by shooting. Before I got busted, one of my close cousins got killed and it was very hard for me, But what I did was think about the good times we spent together and moved on with my life. It was hard, but I needed to do that to move on with my life. I know your kids are having trouble moving on, but what you should do is talk to them and tell them that it was sad what happened to the young kid. And tell them you miss him, too, but that it is time to move on with their lives and remember him with love and respect. Tell them that he is in a better place now ( in Heaven) and tell them that if he was here he would want you to move on and stay away from gangs. Trish, talk to them and let them know that he wants them to move on, but don't forget him.

Well, Trish, take care and God bless you always.

Your friend - Joey A.
California

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Hello Iím 16 years old and I have a real heart for gangs and street kids. I am a Christian and I really do want to help young kids in gangs and things. I want to do a youth club for youth so then they can come off the streets. I am nearly 17 and I know that there is a lot of kids hurting out there and that need people to love them and I know that if people stop running away from them and maybe spend some time with them and be friends and help them to know that they are loved and that they donít need to be in a gang to feel loved because in the end a gangís just a gang but a family is something special. Do you think if I did a youth club and talked to them about God and stuff, do you think they would listen and do you think it would be a good thing to do to help young kids off streets and off drugs and away form getting in to gangs?

God bless - Rachel

Rachel,

Yeah a youth club would be good. You know, what you got going for you is that youíre young so you can relate to teenagers. Talk to your pastor. I think heíd be more than happy to help you.

You got all the right ideas and you know thereís already youth clubs up and running that can really use someone like yourself.

Family is something special. God is good. Keep looking into what you want to do, cause I know doors will open.

Richard M.
California

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Why is it that teens feel that the only way that they can prove themselves is to join a gang or run with gang members? What are some ways that we may prevent a child from joining a gang or getting involved with gangs? Thanks!

With hope - Andrea

Andrea,

It is my perspective that young people find themselves joining gangs as a ritual of initiation into adulthood, to find their self-worth in the approval of another. The reasons are probably endless. If you know of someone in a gang that would like help to get out or if you want to prevent someone from joining, my advice is to find out what it is in that person that is attracted to a gang. What is it about the gang they feel a need to be a part of. Then help this person to find his answers elsewhere. I have found that at the bottom of many foolish decisions lies the need to be acknowledged, accepted and appreciated for what is hidden deep under the layers of the person.

I have also found how helpful it is for someone to feel heard and to what length a person will go to feel their voice be heard, even at the risk of self-destruction.

With respect for your selflessness - Brian
California

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Hello, I am a juvenile counselor in the DC area. I am working with 4 to 5 youth who have come to me because they want to get of their gang. I am starting a program to help them. What do you think I should have as part of the program and what aspects should I focus on?

Thank you, Mike L.

For Mike L.

Itís nice to know people as yourself are there to help our youth. As to helping them, itís basically having a program set in place to keep them off the streets or to occupy their free time. Maybe get them to voluntarily commit to help do work for a community or places in need & itíll help show the pleasures of helping those in need and whether they say so or not, theyíll feel proud of their works. And if possible as they get older try to make available places that may offer your organization youth jobs to help them better themselves. And a little positive counseling and one on one talks wouldnít hurt. It says and means a lot when someone takes the time to show they care and believe in an individual. Iím sure youíll find as they grow older and have positive things to do during their free time, the gangs will get left behind. Itíll be a slow process but every gang member wants a better life for him or herself. Keep up the good work and I hope I was of a little assistance to you and your cause.

Respectfully - Robert
California

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What do you think kids need to know about gangs in order to allow them to say "no" to the pressure to join?
Should scare tactics be used?

- Kelly

Dear Kelly,

Kids today are more receptive to things that will stimulate them. They are not very much concerned about whether that stimulation affects them in a bad or good way. I know I didn't. It is best to show kids things than to simply tell them about it. So the best way to let kids know about gangs is to show them where "old gang members" end up. They must be shown that being in a gang which is centered around negativity will only lead you to prison or death. There are many people who have been in gangs but have managed to make themselves a successful life. These are the people that were able to early-on learn that being in a gang went against their dreams of a good future. Expose kids to these people and let the kids hear it from those who have been there. Let these old gang members tell the kids how they were betrayed by those people he once considered to be his "family" and had sworn to protect him and to have his back at his time of need, yet when put up against a wall his "family" sold him out. If kids knew ahead of time that so-called tough gang leaders were nothing but scared little kids looking for protection in numbers and asking other people to do things that they would not do because they could end up in prison or dead, maybe they would be able to say "no" to the pressure of joining these gangs.

Scare tactics should not be used. Scare tactics are counterproductive when used against people who spend every waking moment proving to the world that they are tough. If kids are put in a positive position where they are forced to "save face" and not be "chumped" by another person, then you will be able to get a positive response out of them. It is best to feed them information and educate them so they will be able to come up with their own answers and conclusion. Although it might be the adult that is providing the answer, the youth feels as if he or she made a decision about their own lives. Scare tactics are nothing but a short-term solution. Information and education will be what brings about the long-term desired results.

Sincerely - Luis D.
New Jersey



Dear Kelly,

My name is Michael R. I was part of one of the most violent gangs that has ever existed. Kelly, I want to be as helpful as possible. Therefore, I live my life speaking to others about my mistakes in order that they won't live life making the same mistakes I have made.

Now, to answer your question, "What do kids need to know to prevent them from joining gangs"? First they need to know that joining a gang is like selling your soul to the devil. Once you get in, you can't get out. The devil who steals your soul always wants to collect. Secondly, there is nothing in a gang but jail, drugs and death. Finally, kids need to know that they are loved. This way they don't substitute a gang for family. This is one of the ways gangs manipulate kids. When kids feel neglected, they have no one to turn to but gangs, at least that's how they think. To prevent neglecting our children, we must talk to them and find out how they feel about life itself. An open relationship between kids and parents always helps.

Should society use scare tactics to prevent kids from joining gangs? No, trying to use such tactics only challenges kid's fragile egos. Kids live for challenges. They like to prove that they can be as tough as the next person.

Sincerely - Michael R.
New Jersey



In my opinion, children should be made aware of the dangers that being a gang member poses to them as well as their families. For example, should a rival gang decide to target you, and they are unable to get you, they will go after your family. They will drive by your family's house expecting you to be there, not knowing that you are some other place. They open fire on your home shooting wildly. You return to a bullet-riddled house to discover that maybe your father, mother, brother, sister or even your girl and unborn baby have been killed, all because you wanted to belong to a gang. This doesn't include the dangers presented to innocent bystanders who could be seriously wounded or even killed. They need to ask themselves before joining a gang, "Is it worth it"?

Children should also be made aware of the lifestyle of being gang members and the consequences. They should be made aware that selling drugs, gang banging, etc., only leads to doing hard time or possibly death. They should understand that shoot outs with rival gangs over turf so they can sell drugs usually ends up with someone getting seriously injured. Who wants to go through life without an arm, a leg, an eye, or possibly even paralyzed? Not me!

For females, they need to understand that females are looked upon differently than male gang members. Male gang members use female gang members as sex objects to be at their serviece. If you get pregnant, are you willing to raise your child in that kind of environment? What if you are walking down the street pushing your baby in its stroller and a rival gang member sees you and starts shooting at you? They aren't going to not shoot just because of the baby. What if your child ends up dead as a result? How would you feel?

I know I have touched upon a few things but children need to know that all of this can be avoided by not joining a gang. The lifestyle only leads to pain, headaches, violence, and possibly death for your families and prison for you. It's antisocial behavior and the consequences aren't something you should be willing to live with.

Scare tactics do have a place in the education process, but per se (in or by itself), they should not be utilized. Exposure to a gang funeral, visits to the morgue, the following of a gang member accused of murder through the criminal justice process, and exposure to gang members serving time for their criminal actions who are working towards rehabilitation are some of the permissible scare tactics that children should be exposed to. Any scare tactics that subjects a child to a violent act should not be employed. It only teaches the child that acts of violence are acceptable under certain circumstances, when in reality it's never acceptable. Scare tactics that demonstrate the consequences of their antisocial behavior are acceptable to educate them, but they should not be solely used.

Angel C.
New Jersey

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What and how much responsibility do teachers play preventing gang involvement? Is it a teacher's job to try to prevent involvement, and if so, what do you think would be an effective teaching strategy in order to do that?

- Kelly

Dear Kelly,

Teachers play an important role in this area. Teachers are responsible for the youth while he or she is in their care or control. The fact is that at times teachers tend to see the different changes a kid goes through before the parents do. Taking all these factors under account, how can a teacher not get involved when they see a student going down the wrong path, which will undermine all that the teacher is teaching the youth.

Is it the teacher's job to try to prevent their involvement? This is a very difficult question. I do not really believe that you can consider this "a teacher's job" to stop a kid's involvement into a gang. However, how can a person call themselves a teacher if they see a kid going down the path of destruction and yet do nothing. No, it is not a teacher's job to do this but a teacher should take it upon himself and/or go out of their way to make sure they do not lose a kid to the streets or to gangs. But how far is a person willing to go? And should that teacher put himself/herself in danger or harms' way to insure? I say no, they should not.

The best strategy is for teachers and parents to work together to form a partnership where during the times that the youth is under the supervision of the teacher, the teacher is the eyes and ears of the parents. The youth should also be part of this partnership so there will not develop any ill feelings between the youth and the teacher, for those times when the teacher has to speak to the parents, the youth do not feel like the teacher is "ratting" him or her out. This is also important so the teacher can get to know the family of his or her students. Knowing the family will better prepare the teacher to deal with the behavior of the youth. Together I am sure the teacher and the parents can come up with a positive alternative to gang life and be able to constantly reinforce the family values needed to insure the youth's good future.

Sincerely - Luis D.
New Jersey



Dear Kelly,

I truly believe that teachers play a strong role in our kid's lives. It's not a teacher's responsibility to prevent their involvement. What parents wouldn't want help to prevent their kids from joining gangs. A strategy for teachers to help our children is to treat them as if they are their own. It is helpful to build a relationship with them.

Sincerely - Michael R.
New Jersey



Teachers play a secondary role in the socialization process of our children. The primary responsibility rests with the family. However, because teachers are involved, they have the responsibility of educating our youth on citizenship (the status of a citizen with its attendant duties, rights and resonsibilities). Many of our schools have gotten away from teaching this kind of curriculum. They've allowed the influences of the 60's and 70's to dictate that if it's not reading, writing and arithmetic, it shouldn't be taught in our schools. No, I'm not advocating the introduction of prayer and religion in our schools. That's an area that is better suited to a parent's responsibility. Morality, on the other hand, is a subject matter that teachers could easily teach our children. To help a parent by teaching our youth about being in accord with the standards of right or good conduct is something a teacher should aspire to.

Angel C.
New Jersey

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My question is why did you join a gang and do you think that lack of opportunities especially recreational opportunities may have been part of the path you chose? I as recreation major have been studying and I can't figure out if there aren't enough alternatives to crime and gangs or if it is just a way to go and part of your existence. - Jill

Dear Jill,

To answer your question, one of the reasons why I joined a gang is because of the lack of recreational activities and funds. I was one of the best runners in my school. I didn't have good shoes or transportation. I once rode my bike for miles just to compete and still came out in second place in our school. I also had the opportunity to be boxing or to play football but the lack of money and transportation held me back. I think there should be sponsors helping out in these types of situations or kids will always be running around trying to find something to do and end up making life-changing mistakes "like myself." But there really aren't enough alternatives at all in some areas but crime and gangs.

Sincerely, Jesse G.
California



Well, first things first, not everyone has the same answer. Everyone has their different stories. Well, for myself it wasn't opportunities or recreational opportunities. I just did it for the love of it. I am not trying to act crazy or anything like that. I am just telling you my side of the story. I don't have nothing to win by lying to you. This is only me, but I'm sure that if there were more recreational opportunities around the neighborhood, there would probably be less crimes. But for me, I did not get jumped into the gang to get attention from anyone.

Rafa
California



Dear Jill,

I want to thank you and commend you for your interest in helping our youth stay away from the gangs. I answer your question with all sincerity and tell you that I joined a gang because some gang members were my role models. My brother, sister, uncles and cousins were from a gang. We grew up in that environment and being in a gang gave us the illusion of being respected and feared. Not to mention that the gang made us feel like we fit in, like we belonged. Where I grew up there were recreational opportunities but nobody close to me was involved in those activities. I believe that there can never be enough alternatives to crime and gangs and if a person grows up in an environment where there is a lot of gang activity and crime, that person will most likely give into that lifestyle. One more and very important factor that will help all our youth is good family relations. There's a lot that can be done by just talking and listening to out youth.

Respectfully - Alex
California



Jill,

Your question was why did I join a gang. Well, first of all, I'm at a correctional facility of the Youth Authority and let me tell you that I'm working and trying to change my life and what I answer you is coming from a changing heart. I joined a gang because I felt accepted and welcomed and at that time I liked what I did.

And, no, the lack of opportunities is not a problem. It's the willingness to make the first step that I and I bet a lot of people were scared of.

Angel



I would like to tell Jill that recreational opportunities could have been a factor to my joining a gang but I think it was lack of role models

As for your second question, I think you are studying too hard and you should put the book down and go out and experience. Expose yourself to their atmosphere and then see for yourself what alternatives you could dish out.

Ricky
California

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I work with a gang intervention program in a smaller Midwest city... I am wondering what kind of strategies we should be using to help "our" kids with the difficulties that they have going on in their lives?
Chola

Dear Chola,

You asked about strategies in dealing with the difficulties our kids are dealing with. I am no professional in this area. I can tell you how others dealt with me at a young age which did have an impact.

Use the peers within the kids themselves. If you are working with groups of kids together, target the one who seems to stand out, the one who seems to be the leader. This one would most likely be the one with the biggest mouth and always trying to intimidate the other kids. This one will probably be the one you have suffered the most disrespect from. You are not going to be able to deal with all the kids at the same level and be successful with them. Once you have the attention of the leaders of the group, the rest will follow. Do not stand up for the one everyone picks on; let the tough one of the group do that for you. Get with that one kid and drill into him or her, the idea that, as the strongest of the group or the one with more control, they are the ones that should be standing up for the weakest. Kids do respond to responsibilities; give them a purpose or some kind of meaning to their behavior. Channel their behavior to something productive and you will see that they will respond.

Luis
New Jersey



Chola,

Thank you for check out the site and for trying to help our youth! I donít know what kind of program you have and if it is similar to Boys and Girls Club, meaning that you have a facility specialized in keeping our youth busy with sports and other activities. I think that it is highly important that the kids build up their self-esteem and the ways of doing that are to compliment them whenever the occasion calls for it. A little praise for the smallest accomplishment really means something to the kids and even to adults. Another way to build their self-esteem is to make them captains of a teamÖ baseball, soccer, basketball, etc. Of course, you can rotate the captains making sure to explain to the previous captain that he or she did nothing wrong but that everybody needs to get their chance as a leader. Also have meetings where the importance of family and self-respect is discussed.

Respectfully - Alex M.
California



There is no easy or one answer to this question because, as you know, kids get involved with gangs for a number of different reasons. So, in order to help a person with his or her difficulties you would have to speak to each kid individually and hope that kid will open up enough to let you know or give you some kind of clue as to why heís going down the road heís going, and there are a lot of different reasons. Some kids do it because theyíre bored with their lives and they see the gang lifestyle as exciting. Some do it because theyíve grown up around it all their lives so it becomes a natural progression for them. But contrary to what you may have heard from Hollywood and the rest of the media, people are not forced to join gangs at knifepoint. There may be some pressure to join a gang, but usually that pressure is self-imposed because that person believes for one reason or another that he is expected to join a certain gang or they may do it because they feel safety in belonging to a gang.

You can help these kids by showing them that being a gang member is not going to bring them safety. In fact, itís going to make their lives more dangerous and just because a person grows up around gang life does not mean he has to become involved himself. There have been plenty of people who grew up in situations like that and have gone on to lead good lives. No one is going to try to kill a person because that person decides not to join a gang. You may lose a few friends. But if those people were your friends only because they expected you to join a gang, then they werenít really your friends.

Some of these at-risk kids can be saved. The trick is to find the ones that really want to be saved. Then when you find the ones who really want to be saved, you must get them to open up to you. They must learn to trust you and you will not accomplish this by getting law-enforcement involved. Kids see cops, they see the enemy. Contrary to what those stupid commercials tell you, a cop is not your friend. Police will only be your friend as long as he can use you to lock other people up and everyone knows this. Some people may not want to be gang members, but if given a choice of you and law-enforcement or the gang, most will choose the gang. So trust is important. But also one thing that is important is to find out what interests this person. If you find something that holds his interest, youíll have one half the battle.

Kids who are already in gangs have much the same type of difficulties and you can approach them pretty much the same way. Some of these kids may say, ďI canít get out of the gang,Ē but most of them say that because they feel they are betraying their friends and they think their friends are going to look at them as being weak and a traitor and they are right. But they can walk away and avoid being viewed that way and feeling that way. All they have to do is cut their ties with them gradually and once you are able to break away completely, most of the gang wonít even notice or care.

Sergio G.
California

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As a female working in gang intervention, I am wondering how I should deal with issues of disrespect, since many of the youth test me from time to time. As someone who was involved with gangs throughout my teens, my first reaction is anger, but I now need to know how to deal with these types of reactions as a professional. Thank you for taking the time. Keep your head up.
Chola

As far as the issue of disrespect, anger is the last thing you want to show. The reason for the disrespect is to get a reaction of anger out of the person you are trying to disrespect. So if your reaction is anger, then you failed the test and the person who disrespected you feels superior. Then again, you cannot just ignore the disrespect. That is a sign of weakness and in a gang intervention program, the last thing you want is to show weakness. Gang members usually think of themselves as predators, and outsiders as prey. When a comment or an action is meant to be disrespectful on purpose, you must flip the script, but without being argumentative. Sarcasm usually works best with street-wise kids. Sarcasm is funny to people on the streets, and a good way to defuse a disrespectful situation. The questions you must ask yourself are: How fast can I think on my feet? How secure am I in my abilities? How comfortable am I with who I am? Because if you ever show that you have some sort of complex about anything you do or the way you are, you will become prey I wish you all the best in your work.

Luis
New Jersey



Chola,

You have to let it be known that you are the boss and are in control. For example, whenever someone disrespects you, of course you are going to be angry, and what you do is speak your mind. If someone calls you a name or you hear cat calls left and right, which Iím sure you do, the thing to do is to call them on it. As soon as it happens, call them out. Ask them why do they disrespect you when all you do is show nothing but respect to themÖ A true man knows how to respect a woman, whether she is fat, pretty, ugly, or however she may look. You can talk to the person that disrespects you by himself but I think that when it happens again you need to address the group and tell them how it is. Just like you give respect, you expect the same in return. After that, if someone harasses you, then take him to the side and speak with him. I recommend that you put him on the spot every time that he disrespects you because he is putting you on the spot. Well Chola. I hope that I was helpful. I wish I could do more to assist you in helping our kids. You take good care of yourself Chola and stay strong.

Respectfully - Alex M.
California



Thereís not too many ways to deal with people who test you because a lot of these kids are immature, they believe a lot of stupid things. The only way to deal with that is to fight fire with fire. Thatís all they understand. What I would do with a person who tries to test me is inform him or her youíre not going to be part of their stupid game. As I said at first part, you canít save everybody. Some people are just not receptive. So you have to save the ones you can and the ones that want to be saved. Sometimes you may feel anger when one of these kids tries to test you but you are an adult. You are supposed to be more mature, more intelligent than that. You canít let these kids push your buttons. Donít fall for their bullshit. But at the same time, donít put up with their bullshit. Look at it as one of those tuff love things. As a professional, you have to be able to make tough decisions even if they hurt.

Sergio G.
California

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I would like to here from a Hispanic male that affiliated or still affiliates with a gang about the pressure a teenage Hispanic male might feel to join a gang. I teach 13-17 year olds and have a good relationship with my boys that claim to affiliate with a gang. In school they may be seen as the trouble makers, the students in and out of alternative school and our juvenile justice systems. I see a different side of them whether they like it or not. Do you have any advice I could give to these teenage boys without sounding to "preachy"?

Trish,

My heart goes out to you for the help you offer these young minds. I think you do yourself a disservice by asking the opinion of only one type of personality in one race of people, so I will offer my input anyway and you may dismiss it totally and I will still feel good for trying. It is my belief that most boys are looking for ways of being initiated into manhood by male figures in their lives who they look up to, even if they happen to be drug dealers. You are certain these young minds know you care for them and feel a trusted space with you. You already hold a place in their lives where you, as a woman they trust to tell them your truth, are able to explain to them what women really look for in a man so they can stop finding out through trial and error in the streets, thinking the best way to display the ďStrength of a ManĒ is through cold blooded violence which will lead to their attracting a mate. All this may sound silly to you as well as other women who read this. Prison is full of examples of these false initiations, myself included.

By for now - Brian
California


Trish,

There's always hope for anyone and giving them a reality talk would help. If ever them kids say you don't understand (trust me, they will), most young teens will open their ears to a convicted felon gang member. No disrespect, but if you are a white female working with Mexican and Black gangs, it makes them think more you don't understand. I feel you do understand and don't give up on them as I know you won't.

Why is it so easy for me to quit banging and not them young teens?

  1. I don't care what people think or say about me. If you fight for respect, you'll still be disrespected regardless if you're a normal good person or a gang member, you'll be spoken down on by your own kind.
  2. I don't care for their respect.
  3. Last but not least none of my homies give a damn about me so why should I give a damn about them.

If you can teach them teens these three things, you'll succeed a long way in helping teen gangs. How do you teach? Well, you're the teacher. I speak it; you teach it.

Sincerely - Your Friend Carlos
California

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I am a 42 year old college student who is studying to be a youth counselor and a volunteer with my church. I go to the youth detention centers and talk to the guys...usually age 14-17...about life.

I represent Jesus 100%, but I never preach at them. The thing is, they are so non serious about where they are at in life. Very few of them are serious about getting out of trouble. I think that the main thing is relating to them and telling them some good advice. What would you tell them, in general, that is?

In Jesus, Craig

Craig,

You are right not to preach to those whom you seek to help. The key is to reason to them by appealing to their rationality. Working with youths is indeed a difficult task especially, as you say, many are not serious about life and about staying out of trouble.

As far as what gems Iíll bestow upon them, of course it would depend upon the circumstances involved. But to be general, I would tell them of my past. I was a drug dealer at points, a car their and robber at others. I would tell them of the women Iíve been with, tell them of the distortion of rational thinking drugs and alcohol brings. Then let them know what becomes of them should they carry on their path. I am now a 24 year old man serving 24 Ĺ years before I see the outside world again.

However, as I said, the answer is in general, and would have to depend on the aspect proposed. I can relate to them on so many levels as I too was a child playing a man and now am a man facing a fate where I wish I could be a child again.

Eric N.
New Jersey


Dear Craig,

God bless you for doing a good job and it is good to know that some people are trying to help our young kids today. I represent Jesus, and you are right, you cannot preach to these young kids because they donít want to hear it, but Iíve been in this prison for seventeen years and I do preach to them because they are doing a lot of time and I donít want them to get lost; I want them to know Jesusí love for them. One, I donít know about the law over there, but over here when they gave you life that means you will never go home. Listen, youíre going to have good kids and bad kids so the only thing I would like for you to do is ask the bad kids about their lives and what would they want to change. I think that we will learn from the bad kids because in they think they know everything and nobody could change their mind, so if we just listen to what they say maybe we could find out what is on their mind. If you have more questions, I would help you find a way to help these kids. Thank you Craig.

Hector S.
New Jersey


Bro. Craig,

You are a disciple of Christ; therefore it's your duty to introduce lost souls to Him. Jesus is a way-maker. You are dealing with people who are looking for peace. You do understand that the battle is in the mind!! So you try Jesusí way; speak words of light into darkness and Iím sure you will get a positive result. If not, you will get some type of response and that is a start. It's not your will but God's will that will be done. So stand on the solid rock which is Jesus Christ. And He'll come in and make everything alrightÖ "because He lives."

T.
New Jersey


Well Craig, I might tell these youths probably the same thing that youíre telling them, but Iíll probably tell them in a different way. Everybody expresses themselves differently. I would tell these youths all the pain that I caused to my loved ones because I used to get myself in trouble, and that I never worried about my future when I should have because look where I am now. A lot of youths get themselves into trouble because they think itís cool to be a bad boy or a bad girl. I always thought it was cool when I was a youth until I opened my eyes and realized that I didnít have to get in trouble to be cool, but I opened them a little too late. Well Craig, just to give you advice, maybe you should try to find a person that changed his life around, that went through or worse the same way that these youths are going through now. These youths probably need someone like that who they could relate to and maybe that person could help them and you. I hope that I answered your question and Craig, never stop on what youíre doing. God bless.

Edwin T.
New Jersey

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I am a teacher and do not work in the summer. I have decided to volunteer in a youth facility as a teacher/mentor. A former student is presently serving a 9 month sentence and will be out (depending on his behavior and progress) by summerís end.

This is not the first time this youth has been incarcerated. I work with many of his friends who are members of a Hispanic gang. (He is as well) After his last sentence was served he was picked back up about 2 weeks later and sent back to a correctional facility. Do you have any suggestions for keeping him from making the same mistakes? I will only have 3 to 4 months to work out problems that have taken a lifetime to develop. What would you have wanted to here at the age of 16? Is there anything that someone could have said or done that would have helped?

Thanks, Trish

Trish,

I admire your work and your intentions with these kids. Itís sad to see young lives go to waste, q-no?

You mention that you have these four months to work out problems that have taken a lifetime to develop. My personal experience, I never did listen to peopleís advice. Thatís the reason I am sitting in this hole. Through the years, I have seen a few kids who indeed listened to people like yourself or to their parents. Some others, after spending some time in the Juvenile hall, they change their lifestyle. A big number of us never do, but please donít give up on us. Youíll find one or two who will listen to you.

The only thing that crosses my mind and might workÖ For the last decade or so, the California prison system has built these holes, which they call SHU programs - ďSecurity Housing Units.Ē In here, we donít have anything coming, no sunlight, contact visits, cellies, or phone calls. There are people who have been here since they opened this hole - Nov í89. The purpose of this program is to use psychological tactics to break us down. A few universities have run studies in which they recommend to close this place down. If you could arrange trips to this hole so your kids can see exactly where the tough boys end upÖ Itís ugly but good for them, especially when they see themselves in us. 70% of the people in here are Mexicans. You and every other tax payer should be allowed to tour Pelican Bay (SHU) State Prison.

Good luck - Juan
California


Dear Trish,

Working with youth at-risk is not any easy thing, so please let me thank you on behalf of those youíre helping, and you ARE helping Trish. This ďformer studentĒ you want to try to reach, once he has served his sentence will no doubt need your guidance upon release. Otherwise he may end up going right back and this time with a much longer sentence. I do not know the student or his character. I can tell you that at 16 I was running around always angry at something - did not know exactly what it was, I just was. I also had all this bottled up energy and nowhere constructive or positive in which to direct it. What would have really helped me would have been to keep me busy. I usually got in trouble when I had the most time on my hands. That former student, give him as much responsibility as possible. Put him to work with others and make him responsible for tasks of importance to others. There shall be resistance, but you must stand strong, even when he rejects your advice and warnings.

Luis D,
New Jersey


Greetings Trish,

How are you doing? So you are a teacher. That's cool! I think that teachers make this world so much better. Anyways, Trish, I am happy that you have decided to volunteer in a youth facility as a mentor/teacher. I'm glad that you have taken advantage of the opportunity to reach those kids in Juvenile Hall who are coming down the same road I once did. You are doing a good thing. I just wish I knew all this, so that maybe I would have done something with my life.

Trish, when I was young I never really had anyone to give me advice or encouragement. Every young kid needs someone to give them advice, wisdom and to make them feel special and to let them know everything is possible.

Trish, about the student you are working with, first win his trust, make him feel special and loved. Talk to him; let him know the barrio lifestyle and drugs is not a way to live his life! Let him know he is very smart and that he can achieve every goal and dream he has if he tries--everything is possible. When I was 16 I wish I had someone to encourage me, just someone I could count on. That's what every young kid needs.

I have been doing time since I was a 16 year old kid. I grew up in Los Angeles. It's not a good feeling doing time almost all your life. I missed so much. But now I'm a changed man. I learned to trust the Lord and to seek Him. I also like to help young kids make something with their lives, and I hope one day I'll have kids of my own.

A friend once told me that he would die content if he knew he brought light to just a tiny part of this world. Trish I hope and pray that everything works out for you and for your student. And I wish to hear from you to hear what happens, if it is alright with you. Take Care.

Respectfully, your friend - Joey A.
California

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This year I seem to have adopted a group of kids who belong to a local Hispanic gang. I teach 12-17 year olds when I am in school, but have recently started trying to help the older members. In the beginning the older boys, of course, were very uneasy with the fact that a teacher was becoming so involved with the younger boysí lives. Over the past few months I have started communicating with the older members and leaders. First, do you have any suggestions that may help me gain the older boys' trust as I am not in school with them on a regular basis? Second, do you have any ideas on getting them to work on my side..... pro-education, pro-family, etc.

Thanks for your help in advance!! - Trish

Suggestions that may help you gain ďtrust,Ē when I was younger I came across someone like you. Her name is Anne. At first I didnít trust her. It took me awhile but I learned to trust her with everything I was doing then and the things I might do. Now I confide more with her than my whole family. Human beings are like any other animal out there. We can sense good or bad intentions, true or false purpose. If you are for real, people will know, and of course they will learn to trust you.

Good luck - Juan
California


Dear Trish,

For your second question, it is always good to come at older gang members from the end of things. A lot of older gang members dropped out of school because of their gang affiliations and activities. Although in public many disregard academic education, they do value life skills. If you want them to work with you, use them as mentors. The younger members are their ďbrothers.Ē Use that; work with both at the same time. Donít think you need to deal with the younger ones differently than the older ones; you must remember that the young ones want to be like the older ones. By doing things together and making the older ones mentors and responsible for the younger ones, the kids will see gang banging in a different light. Again Trish, nothing is easy, and you may have to come at them from the thug side. Donít be afraid to get in their faces and donít back down when they test you; and test to their well. They just want to see how real you are. But like anything else, trust your judgment of the situation.

Good luck Trish - Luis
New Jersey


Trish:

If you want the older guys to work with you, first you need to win their trust. You need to let them feel special and that you really want to help hem better their lives. Look, Trish, sometimes it's hard for a gangbanger to trust someone who is not one of his homeboys, because sometimes the only family a gangster has is his homeboys. If you want them to trust you, you need to communicate with them, understand them and most of all listen to what they have to say. Talk to them, ask them what they want to do with their lives and give them advice. Make them feel like they can count on you.

Trish, for me, it was very hard to trust! You know, I was not always an emotional person as far as letting my feelings show, as my past lifestyle required that I never let no one get close or at any time know what I was feeling, because I have been through so much and have been hurt a lot. Well, Trish, this is it for now. Take care and God bless you. Keep up the good work.

Respectfully - Joey A.
California

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