Needed: Tough love and attention

Published 9:13 pm Saturday, March 6, 2010

It’s not hard to see there is growing concern in our community, in our state and in our nation about the future of our youth. You hear it at every governmental meeting, you hear it at each School Board meeting and you are starting to hear it at every civic and advocacy meeting held.

During the past few weeks, I, and others here at the Suffolk News-Herald, have covered a number of events involving Suffolk Tomorrow, the Nansemond-Suffolk branch of the NAACP, members of the Suffolk Youth Advocacy Council and many others.

In each case, the discussions have heavily focused on what can be done to improve the lives of today’s youth and what can be done by leaders today to ensure young men and young women develop into the strong and well-educated leaders we need.

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At those functions, leaders have criticized how today’s youth dress, called for tougher love and leadership at home and pushed for higher standards rather than accepting average accomplishments.

We have also covered efforts on the part of the City of Suffolk to combat a dangerous influx in gang activity and battle the juvenile and domestic violence that have become far too familiar in our lives to even call newsworthy.

Thanks to that effort and the development of such groups and programs such as the Suffolk Initiative on Youth, the Youth Public Safety Academy and the city’s Office on Youth, some accomplishments can be lauded.

According to information from the city, Suffolk has seen a 16.4-percent drop in juvenile offenses over the reporting period of July 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2009 compared to the prior period.

It can be considered an accomplishment that more are now aware of the problem and are willing to help. But that involvement and rush to participate comes with problems — mainly in logistics.

All of us want a better future for our children, all of us what them to have the best in life and to have things that we did not have. But in our rush to help, we have created an unorganized effort by so many jumping in and doing their own thing, going in their own directions.

For us to be successful in improving the lives of our children, it will take strong organization on the part of city leadership, church leadership and groups like Suffolk Tomorrow and the NAACP to better coordinate our efforts to help battle gangs, to help improve high school drop out rates and challenge our children to be better people.

Those in positions of authority and influence often talk about how things were when they were growing up. They often lament a tougher childhood without video games and cell phones and remember fondly the mentors they had to make them the people they turned out to be.

Our children not need those stories and those experiences, but they also need strong mentors and challenges of their own. That is where these groups and the city are playing a role.

I applaud the efforts of so many for focusing on the youth of Suffolk and congratulate the successes that we’ve seen so far. But we cannot rest on any successes. We have too much work left to be done.