By Adam Straubel, Director of Development at Parkesburg Point Youth Center
Today, I saw a 7th grader with anIphone 4, an unemployed 25 year old living with his parents somehow shopping for video games, a teenager driving “his” 2011car, a group of high school student all under 6 feet tall with onlyNBA aspirations, and high school graduate who refused to work a job’under his level’.
There are forces affecting all youthtoday. They are the product of media, marketing, and parentalinfluence. These forces are slightly different for kids from richand poor homes.
It is not easy being a kid is born intoa family with money. Marketers have convinced your family and peersthat sustaining a certain position in life is essential. Your biggestneed by far is loving parents, which you may or may not have. Familyand friends all seem to have plans for your life that end in youachieving success. From the age of 13, possibly younger, access toprescription strength drugs is a phone call away.
It is not easy being a kid born intopoverty. It is highly unlikely that you have both parents at home.Parents that are around are probably absent or unsupportive. Yourrole models are popular musicians and athletes; they came from thesame background as you and managed to be successful.
Yet almost allof these “heros” are self aggrandizing narcissists whose sexualexploits and drug use are sensationalized by the media.
Both types of kids are tempted bydrugs—to self medicate the pain in their lives, to fit in withpeers, and to achieve some level of happiness that adults seem tolack. Both types of kids have had success defined for them bysociety. Societal definitions of success show a surprising lack ofhumanity.
Society presents your average “at-risk”youth as poor, struggling in school, or from single parent homes.This concept needs to be reconsidered; all students face decisions atyoung ages that can destroy their lives. In other words, all youthare at risk.
We have been given too much and askedlittle in return. A Haitian proverb says “gifts make slaves, aswhips make dogs.” As youth, we have been robbed of the satisfactionof self sufficiency. Perhaps the answer to the question, ‘why haveour kids failed, we have given them everything?’, lies within thequestion itself.
If you see some truth in the analysis,perhaps you will agree with the following solution.
The Parkesburg Point has a vision whereyouth are taught the value of hard work. What does that look like for a 13 year old kid inthe 21st century?
Based on research published in TimeMagazine in 2008, which tested implementing different incentive programs to improve testscores with great success, the Point has developed an incentive program that rewards kids forworking through online math modules and reading books.
Our math program uses the free onlineresource Khan Academy, which is a compilation of lessons on every math subject fromK-12 and modules that allow student progress to be tracked. Students in our program willbe rewarded for each module they complete.
Our reading program uses softwarecalled Accelerated Reader, which has a quiz for almost every bookwritten to determine whether or not they have read it. Students willbe rewarded for every book read when they have completed theassociated quiz.
Harder math modules and harder bookswill have a bigger reward. They will also be required to give 10% toa charitable cause of their choice and save 10% for their future.
Parents will have the opportunity tosponsor their own child going through this program. Donors will havethe opportunity to sponsor a child whose parents are unable orunwilling to do so.
The genius of this program is how thekids are paid. Rather than handing them cash, the money will beredeemable at a Point Store, a market place selling the things thatkids need and want. Each student will have an account where themoney will be deposited.
I do not want my kids growing up in acommunity where the median age of marijuana and alcohol use is 14years old, 80% of high school seniors have consumed alcohol, and 1 in5 teens have considered suicide.
I do want my kids growing up in acommunity where youth value education; a community where kids pushthemselves to learn calculus in 8th grade to earn money to save upfor a car; where kids read 15 books a summer to have a littlespending money; and where teachers get a little more communitysupport in developing our children academically.
Kids need hope. They also respond toincentives. They do not sell drugs because they want to destroy lives; they do it to earnmoney. If the community is serious about developing the next generation of ethical young leaders,give them the incentive to invest in themselves from a young age, teaching the values that will make themassets to local businesses and the community.
This vision is part of the Point’slarger youth development program that addresses the spiritual, emotional, physical, and academic needsof the community. Through this vision we can create a culture among young people that we saywe want.
If you have any comments on thisvision, want to see a more robust description of the program and how it works, or want to beinvolved in its implementation, please come to the Point and talk to us.
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