Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Civ.ic Reflection

I am having my eyes opened to a whole new world.
It is wondrous and tragic at the same time.

Today I was part of a taping at 2 separate high schools in Newark for a grant that was given to our org.

There are 17 high schools in Newark. Some are called "magnet schools" that are math or science or arts related and you must pass tests and have good GPA's to be admitted.
The balance of the high schools are for the children that are "left" and they know it and feel it too.

The two tapings could not have been more different, yet both were at "left" schools.
The first group were 14 years old. They were shy and giggly in the face of the videographer. To warm them up, the group was asked to have a close up and to give one adjective that described them....

Not one of them (17) said anything positive other than funny or tall. Most of them said "annoying" "ignorant" etc. My heart broke for these children! Who could have imprinted those horrible words on them?!? At one point the facilitator asked the question "do you know anyone that has been shot?" Every 14 year old raised his or her hand. I'm 47 and I don't know anyone who has ever been shot.

The kids really didn't have much to say during our taping and we didn't have the best outcome.

The 2nd taping was very different. Different school and high school seniors this time. Walking to get to the school was challenging. We felt as if we were in a war zone. There was literally construction rubble all over the green grass or anything live that was growing. We walked up a few levels of steep stairs carrying our video equipment.

But the kids were alive. They were smart, funny and engaged. During their closeups, the kids each said something that they loved. I was hopeful. The room crackled with their enthusiasm.

But during the discussion, the kids brought up the reason they wanted to change their environment. They wanted to stop the murders, the teen pregnancy, the crime and the shame they feel when they travel out of Newark and tell people where they live. These kids are 17 years old and they want to stop murders first! They openly discussed feeling less than because they feel their school is substandard and not only do they feel it, they've been told it because they're not in the more exclusive magnet schools.

If your child is in school and doesn't know anyone who has been murdered or shot, say a prayer of thanks. If your child has the self esteem to not call themselves "ignorant" or "annoying" then pat yourself on the back for instilling them with a positive self image.

And please think good thoughts for the children of Newark who want and deserve the same opportunities as your children have. Being safe and happy and full of self pride is the right of every single child in our world. If you can do something to help us change the world, ask me how, because I'm going to writing more about this topic in the future.

It will break my heart and make me proud at the same time.

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