Hoping Tomorrow is Safe

Student Ambassador: Shaneka Speigh

OWEd Ambassador Since: 2009

Grade 10

School Phelps Career High School, DC

Reflection Experience

Learning Activities

278Where I live, “safety” is not a word taken lightly. I wish things were different, but one of the biggest local issues in my area is youth on youth violence. Recently, the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center reported that 35.7 % of students in grades 9-12 had admitted to being involved in a physical fight. The report, conducted in 1999, also reported that 1,763 youth under the age of 18 were arrested for homicide in the United States. It’s easy for me to say that violence is not the answer to any problem, but I’m afraid the people that need to hear this aren’t listening. It’s almost every day that you hear on the news that a teenager is killed. Teenagers in my neighborhood have been some of these victims.

Youth violence can be anything from physical abuse, neglect, homicide, suicides, or an attempt to hurt someone in any other kind of way. Just two years ago, in October of 2007, a teenage boy was shot and killed literally 30 steps away from my house. This night, the Mayor and news reporters also came to the crime scene. The whole neighborhood was outside, talking in pairs, whispering, pointing, and glad it wasn’t them. According to data that was just released this year (1999) from the Center for Disease Control, homicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for people 10-24 years of age. And in 2006, according to the same source, 5,958 people in this age group were murdered in our country – an average of 16 people each day. I’m almost certain that no one standing outside on our street that night knew that the police report about that evening would live on as another statistic.

The news reporters asked question like “Does this happen often?” To think, I should have been inside doing my homework. It’s just hard to study like this. The shooting caught everybody off guard. Many parents became scared to let their children out of sight. After that, we all were always looking over our back because you never knew what could happen.

My brother worked as a security guard at one of the high schools in the area. Although some would consider many schools this way, the school he worked at was not considered one of the best schools in the Washington, DC. There was a stabbing there recently, and a 14-year old boy was shot and killed on Minnesota Avenue while walking with some members of his church youth group.

Many teenagers in another neighborhood of the city near where I live are involved in gangs. A lot of kids think being in a gang is instant friends, but really, I think it’s instant enemies. Being in a gangs leave people with very few choices, and if you challenge a gang system, bad things can happen. A girl that some friends knew through some other friends in Maryland was killed on her way home with a few friends in a drive by. In later reports, it was said that she was walking with someone who was “beefing” with another gang and was mistakenly hit by a bullet while the shooter aimed for another person. Other incidents often result in teenagers being taken away in ambulances. I know that it is not like this everywhere. I also know that this is no picture of a city with so many wonderful people.

I believe that teenagers like me an others have the ability and a responsibility to minimize the amount of violence occurring in our communities. More after-school programs can give teenagers something to do, keeping them further away from environments where joining a gang will be more likely. I see so many young people who need to learn how to control their anger and temper. These are difficult skills and practices in any neighborhood, but the effects of young people not learning these skills seems to be deadly here. But the real change needs to start with young people in the neighborhoods most affected with these problems. It’s difficult to turn to the adults for help, for many of them contributed to the situations we are now living with. I wish I knew more about what I could do, because the youth violence in certain areas of our country, and my very own neighborhoods in Washington DC, are getting out of control.

As teenagers, or people of any age, anywhere, we need to realize that violence doesn’t solve situations, but it makes bad situations more dangerous. Sadly, it seems like we are used to taking our anger out on other people. It feels like sometimes violence is young person’s first response. Because of that, some young people around here never grow old.

I feel that teenagers need to spend more time thinking before we make decisions. We have to realize that violence not only hurts the intended victim, but everyone around the victim and then those around them. When I hear of another youth killing, I now think about that that person was someone’s father, mother, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, or friend.

I want to encourage teenagers to think more about the impact of violence on every aspect of their community. I personally think that the best thing one can do is just mind your own business and make sure if you want to get yourself into something, you are able to deal with it without resorting to violence. I cannot count how many shirts I have seen with young faces on it. I cannot count how many gunshots I have heard in my young life. I despise the fact that I have to watch my back everyday, to make sure I do not become a victim of someone else’s poor decision.

I wish that my family didn’t have to worry about what will happen the moment we step outside our house. Yeah, it’s a fact of life where I live, but I really wish it wasn’t so. The Violence Needs to Stop.