I applied to be a mentor at multiple high schools in Charleston via West Ashley High School’s Raptor Program. I wanted to know if any programs existed specifically designed for troubled students, i.e., those who are repeatedly in Saturday school, detention, facing constant suspensions, or near expulsion. I’m interested in anything dealing with youth rivalries, violence, extreme disrespect, or what I call a degraded youth mentality, that possibly stems from the study of adverse childhood experiences. I was once one of those students who was always in Saturday school, continuously suspended and arrested for fighting in high school. I now have a better understanding of the words I needed to hear and methods that might have changed my direction—my irrational teen thinking process—much sooner. That thought process led to a gang type of mentality which supported a cultural civil war on James Island. Luckily my era still used hands to fight (and not guns).
When I was younger there seemed to be no one attempting to stop the meaningless rivalries that were ingrained into our minds. We had a mindset that made us dislike and fight others simply because they were from different neighborhoods. No one was correctly or directly trying to get ahead of the root causes of this violence in our communities. No form of punishment proved to be effective. During Saturday school we picked up trash and other things that were useless in changing our mindset. There should be consequences, but there must also be constant positive mental redirection.
There were always officials ready to send us to jail or hand out punishments, but no one was helping with deprogramming our senseless hate when we returned home to our negative influences. There was no one trying to deprogram what our environments constantly taught us. No one truly tried to diffuse the conflicts we inherited from our older friends and family members—rivalries that were built on generations of internal disputes. There was no one trying to break the continuous cycles thriving in our communities and always spilled over into schools and public functions. It seems as if everyone in charge silently condoned this behavior because no counselors or law enforcement were ever involved in community talks or youth relations.
I hope things are different today, but I don’t see it. If there are plans already in place I would love to be a part of them because I would like to actively help ensure more is being done. If nothing is currently in place, I have ideas for initiatives that require limited volunteers including tapping into local churches for more mentors. Mentoring is great, but there must be a program that addresses the root of student behavior and the subsequent confrontations within communities.
David L. Lafayette