Posted by the prisoner's wife On 6:49 PM
First Lady Michelle Obama was recently honored by People Magazine as one of 2009's the most beautiful people. We all should have seen this one coming. The media has been in an absolute frenzy since the Obamas got to Washington, and the first lady has been mentioned by nearly every magazine and tabloid on the planet. What I enjoyed about her nod in this year's list, however, were her words. She states,
"I had a father and a brother who thought I was beautiful, and they made me feel that way every single day...I grew up with very strong male role models who thought I was smart and fast and funny, so I heard that a lot. I know that there are many young girls who don’t hear it."
I echo Mrs. Obama's sentiments. Although my family wasn't perfect, my parents made me feel as though I was smart enough and beautiful enough to conquer the world. Without Mrs. Obama's parents and my own, who knows what sorts of pressures we could have fallen victim to. Many of my peers did not make it to college. A few had babies before we even walked across the high school stage humming "Pomp and Circumstance," and even more still are just out there "hustling." Having someone in your corner that has your back is amazing. It's empowering, and it makes you think you can accomplish anything you want.
Unfortunately, many kids do not have someone they can count on. I run a support group for kids at my school and today we were discussing resources (people) we could count on in a crisis situation. The kids in my group have a myriad of things going on in their lives. One girl feels completely alone, says her parents are "bad parents" and opts to keep to herself because she's depressed. Another just lost his grandfather, is angry at his own father because he hasn't seen him since he was two years old, gets into fights a lot, and cuts himself to deal with his pain/anger. Yet another is VERY angry with his father for leaving him for his stepmother and cries and lashes out in anger to compensate for his pain. Heavy. Although they deal with very different issues, the tie that binds each of their stories is that they do not have an advocate they feel comfortable with. Despite their problems and imperfections, I have learned that they are great kids, yet they don't have someone that has their back and tells them it's ok to dream and work to reach those dreams. It's sad, but if they are going to make it, they will need some help.
I've struggled all year not to get too attached to my students. This year, it has been easier to not let their issues become my issues, but this support group is another animal. I wasn't expecting the kids to come with issues so raw and deep, nor was I expecting them to be so willing to open themselves up and share their wounds. If we are going to raise more Shashas, Malias, and Michelles--we are going to have to step in the gaps for our kids.
What can we do to help? Mentor OUR children. Even if parents can't be there, if families are dysfunctional, even if you don't feel like it's your responsibility...it is. Who else can help our kids but us?
For more information on how you can get involved, check out The National CARES Mentoring Movement.