In recent months talk of creating a youth/teen center has been brought up on this site by some in the community as a place for teens to hang out as opposed to the Loop. At a U City Youth Forum last week, a teen/youth center was suggested by those in attendance.
Next month, University City Mayor Shelley Welsch and other leaders from the St. Louis area are holding a"Regional Initiative on Youth" here in U City. It's not known if a teen/youth center is on the agenda.
Below is an open letter from Rod Jennings, a University City parent, resident and member of the U City Board of Education, concerning the possible creation of a youth/teen center.
As far as a , I want to make these comments as a black parent that grew up as a troubled youth in UCity. Forget that I am a school board member because that was a recent occurrence in my life. I have been associated with UCity for 41 years. I have been to the WigWam, worked summer jobs, worked as a teen-aged youth counselor, been mentored by the best, and have spent time in City Hall's basement.
I am going to be criticized for being painfully honest and many will call me a bad example of a public servant, so please forgive me in advance. This is no reflection on the City or School Board and District, but here goes my opinion anyway.
There will never be another teen center or real youth activities in UCity or this region because people don't have the commitment that was in parents and community members years ago. I remember we had little league baseball where I met my friends before high school days and siblings and parents as well. I knew many dads as well as I knew classmates because they were present and engaged in our lives. I knew Mr. Davis, Mr. Watson, and Mr. Dean who later hired me as a youth counselor because he really knew me.
Today as an adult, I served as a PTO vice president for 2 years and very rarely saw another black male at meetings and events. Truthfully, I didn't see enough women also. And we wonder why our kids are not behaving. Black parents, we have got to be more visible and active in the schools. I go to schools with more white students and I see mom and dad building projects and raising hundreds of dollars for their PTO'S and children, while we won't show up for free book giveaways for our black boys and girls. There are differences in the performances of our children but it is based on us as parents.
People, whether your child is a scholar or a convict it is your fault, your responsibility. I am not a perfect parent but for both of my children I went to their classroom once a week and read to the entire class from Kindergarten to 6th grade. My kids saw me, but I also watched, monitored, and evaluated what they were teaching my children. I dealt with the bullies because they knew me too as the schoolyard kick ball playing dad that talked to them about peace and respect. That's how I was raised by the parents of the 60's and 70's.
We will never eliminate the violence and under performance in our schools until we start acting like the freedom fighters of the 60's that broke Jim Crow's back. It wasn't just KING, it was Jewish people from New York, Catholics from Michigan, and Blacks from the South that came together assessed the problem, strategized together, and committed themselves to change even if it meant their very own lives.
Our young people don't have roles models like that anymore. You work 40 hours, drive your Lexus into your garage and watch your flat panel televisions at the expense of our young people. All the while, MTV, BET, lil Wayne, 50 cent, Real Housewives of the ghettos, wanna be gangs, and peer pressure raise our children. And you blame the schools because they are not prepared to be law enforcement, social workers, nutritionists, and mentors. They were only trained and hired to teach your children. The rest of the job is your responsibility.
Crucify me on this, but you couldn't even as a community raise money to send to further their training as leaders among their peers. But why should . Here is why: Since those 4 were trained in Atlanta at the MLKing center we have buried two young UC students and another is paralyzed for life. And as a community you ought to be ashamed of yourselves with your selfish excuses...not my child, I give at my child's school, I don't have kids in the district......tell that to a mother that has to bury a young child or try to find money for a wheelchair ramp for her front porch.
So if you are going open a teen center in UCity we are going to have a common goal and work collectively. Don't come with lip service. This is so much bigger than the Loop or ACT test scores. We are not talking just about educating every child in every subject everyday. We must provide options visible to young people that will usher them into being responsible adults, but we must give so much of ourselves to save and change all of their lives regardless of what part of town they are from. And we must show them how to serve and lead in this community by example.
I will work with anybody to open a teen center if they can check egos at the door and be prepared to really get in the trenches and build something from scratch and get the entire community involved. Otherwise, get your black suits cleaned and be prepared to bury more young people that could have been college grads if we just pressed a little harder. I look forward to your reponses...
Editors’s Note: This column is for University City residents to voice their opinions on happenings in U City. The views expressed are not those of University City Patch nor its editorial staff, and solely reflect those of the author. This content has not been edited other than to fix spelling or grammatical errors.