The Lost Generation, Part II: Portrait of a Detroit Youth
Educator’s personal story of a young man in need of help
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Many parents have abandoned their parenting responsibilities for a life of personal happiness. Sure, there are still some great parents out here, but there is an influx of bad ones that have greatly affected our youth.
Detroit is the city I love. I grew up here and went to Detroit Public Schools. I grew up in a single parent home and in a mostly single-parent neighborhood. I thought growing up in a house with roaches, rats and no money was hard, but it was nothing compared to the challenges our kids face today.
Sure, we were poor, but I knew my mother loved me. I just knew it. When she had kids, she dropped her personal life to raise us. I don’t ever remember my mother dressing better than us or leaving the house for days while we were unattended. She cooked almost every night and would call us in from playing outside to eat dinner.
Dinner used to be the meal that the family had together to finally relax and debrief the day over a hot meal cooked with love.
But for my mentee, "Tim,"—he did not have a clue what dinner time was; breakfast or lunch for that matter. This teenager was living and trying to navigate this mean-ass world alone, on an empty stomach.
After our conversation, it was as if the light bulb came on. I couldn’t keep Tim out of my office after school. I saw to it that he did his homework and ate a meal from the café in our youth development center. He never talked about wanting to die anymore. We talked about other teenage male issues, such as girls and puberty. Rob was even happy to see his friend coming around.
I guess I can say now that I was so thrilled to see Tim improving academically and socially that I didn’t think much of his home life. I wonder if I had focused more on his home life would his outcome have been different.
One Friday, Tim asked my advice on basketball. He said that he could hoop and wanted to play on the team. So, we went down to the gym and I put him through a few drills. Needless to say, he needed some work. We worked out a commitment plan for him to work out and get better. We would start workouts on Monday after school.
When Monday came around, he didn’t show up for school. I was kind of busy and didn’t think anything of it. He had no cell phone and the number he gave me was his mother’s. Tuesday comes and no sign of Tim. I tried to call his mother’s cell to no avail—it was disconnected.
Tim missed a whole week of school. I worried throughout the weekend hoping everything was OK. I even called Rob to see had he heard from him and he said “No,” in a very worried tone of voice.