DETROIT - Literally every day we are reporting another homicide in the city of Detroit. If you do the math, it's the 68th day of the year and there have been over 60 homicides reported by police. Some of these tragedies have taken the lives of young children, a 9 month old died in the past couple weeks. Children in their teens have also been the accused in some of the cases. More must be done to curb youth violence in Detroit and I know exactly how to do it. In fact I've been doing it for the past 10 years.
If you have ever had a conversation with anyone about crime in the city, perhaps you or someone you were talking to said "it's the parents fault" but how often does that conversation include "so what are we going to do about it?" I had that conversation with myself 10 years ago and ultimately concluded it was time to hold myself accountable for trying to make a difference in the lives of Detroit kids and founded the Rhonda Walker Foundation for inner city teen girls. Our five year program targets Detroit teens in the 8th grade with a summer self esteem camp, monthly career and personal development programs, workshops, job shadowing, retreats and mentoring until they graduate from high school. The result, 100% of our youth that complete the five year program graduate from high school, enroll in college and graduate from college. Also, none of the youth in our program have been suspended from school, in trouble with the law or participate in abusive self defeating behavior.
I'm not suggesting you start a non profit organization, but I am recommending that if the crime and juvenile delinquency concerns you even a little bit, there are numerous organizations and schools you can volunteer with and that will change a child's life for the better. Furthermore it will make our communities safer.
Children need positives influences, and if their surroundings consist of adults that have never gone to college, committed crimes, abuse drugs and alcohol or are in jail those negative influences create a cycle from one generation to the next. However, if that same child grows up with positive role models outside of their neighborhood and family it inspires that child to desire and pursue a better way of life.
So I'm asking you to help make the difference in one child's life, not an entire neighborhood, school or community just one child. Bring a child to your job for a day and talk to him or her about what you do and what it took to get there. Ask that child about their interests and help them create a plan to set and achieve their goals. It's a documented fact that time, love, care and attention through a mentoring relationship will encourage a child to make better choices.
Moreover, youth that have mentoring relationships have higher grades and are more like to have better attitudes and positive behaviors than those that do not. Children that are mentored are also less likely to skip school, start using drugs and alcohol or elicit violent behavior compared to youth that do not have mentoring relationships.
I was proud during Mayor Dave Bing's State of the City Address Wednesday night to hear about the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative with the support of Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee. It includes focusing on promoting mentoring, keeping all rec centers open and increasing support from the public and private sector for summer youth employment programs.
If we want a city that is safe, we must make a personal commitment to save the youth and do our part to help the children realize their fullest potential.
The Rhonda Walker Foundation is always looking for new mentors, volunteers, support for our summer jobs and job shadowing programs and donors willing to sponsor a teen in our five year Girls into Women program. To learn more please visit us on our website at http://rhondawalkerfoundation.org/ .