Coming to an End
As Acts 4 Youth is beginning to come to a close for me my eyes are being opened to many of the situations around me. As I spend more and more time there I start to notice and realize a lot of things that make me sad. I know that the whole reason we are there is to help these boys make it into high school. We want them to do their absolute best in school and grow up to be great human beings. But there are a lot of things that I have been noticing as I get to know these kids better and spend more time with them.
So many of these boys are incredibly intelligent; at times they like to act like or seem like they don’t care but when they do their homework I can see the gears grinding in their heads. They solve all their math problems, and can define many of their difficult vocabulary words without a dictionary. But there is constant complaining from some of them about how none of this is important to them. I don’t want to be a downer because I know that this program was made to help these boys grow up to be successful young men, but so many of them have already set their minds in terms of how much, or little, they want to succeed. I remember when I was their age, and even a few years after that, the last thing I was thinking about was my future, which is talked about very frequently at A4Y. I would say one of the biggest problems for these boys is that so many of them live in neighborhoods with older boys that they look up to, but who aren’t the best influence on them.
This Monday I was sitting with one boy to do homework. As he was going through his backpack a pair of sunglasses fell out. He picked them up and looked at me and said, “See these? These are my sunglasses I wear when I’m high. They’re dark shade so nobody can see my eyes.” I looked at him in shock and asked him again how old he was. “I’m fourteen. You don’t believe I smoke weed? Here is my lighter. I just chill and listen to music, it’s all good.” I wasn’t surprised to hear that a fourteen-year-old was smoking weed because my sister, who is thirteen, has told me stories about kids in her grade smoking and how it annoyed her, but this hit me harder. I know this boy. I have been working with him for almost three months now. I know his likes and dislikes, who he gets along with, and who he doesn’t. I know how he works and the most efficient way to get work done when I am working with him. Already this boy is going down a road that will get him nowhere. He is incredibly talented at sports and he wants to be a big quarter back for one of the best high school teams in Baltimore, but he has been told that if he doesn’t work hard he will not be able to achieve this goal. For the rest of the afternoon that one little incident kept bugging me.
I would say the most interesting thing I learned from service is how much of an effect it doesn’t just have on the kids, but on me as well. Because of this I want to relate this all the way back to Kolvenbach’s article about the Jesuit education and service. Service is so incredibly important and A4Y has really opened my eyes to this. One of the best feelings is when the boys come running up to us when we get there to give us high-fives or hugs, or when they hear that A4Y is coming to an end for us and they have looks of shock on their faces. They kept saying that we better be coming back to them after our Christmas break. This makes me feel like I have done something for these kids, but how much exactly?
So recently I have been incredibly conflicted about my role in helping these boys. I know I am there to help them achieve but at the end of the day how much of an influence am I actually making? So many of these kids already have a path set for themselves, and others are so easily molded by the people around them, whether good or bad. This program has had such an effect on me that I definitely will sign up again for next semester in hopes that I can make a real change for at least one kid.