I only spent 2 and a half hours with a class of 8th grade boys at the Guildford School and I already know every Monday is going to be new and great experience. I love kids and I don’t think there is any better service for me than Acts4Youth. There are a couple things that the teacher reinforces over and over again in the classroom. He may ask, “How are we displaying self control?” or “Where is our respect level at this moment?”. These periodic questions place a reminder in the boys’ mind and regroups them when necessary.
“Suburban” written by John Ciardi puts into action what Acts4Youth aims for. The speaker’s dog is accused of going to the bathroom in the neighbors flowers. Instead of losing control and starting a fight, the speaker simply goes over a removes the poop. He asks himself, “Why lose out on organic gold for a wise crack?” This phrase goes hand in hand with “Is it really worth it?” Is whatever you are about to do, whether it be skipping an assignment, saying something crude, or committing a crime. Throughout the poem all I heard echoing in my mind was “How are we displaying self control?” The speaker does an incredible job at holding back and taking one for the team. He also gets a reward in the end and it is truly a win-win situation. Acts4Youth helps enforce the thought that there is reward in taking a second to think about ones actions and revaluate and this poem is an excellent paradigm for the kids.
Thomas Lynch’s poem, “Liberty”, has a different relationship to the kids in the Acts4Youth program. In my opinion, “Liberty” represents what the kids think of themselves at this point. Some act as though they are on top of the world and rules don’t pertain to them. In the poem, the man peers wherever he wants as an act of freedom. He says, “some nights I go out and piss on the front lawn as a form of freedom”. This is unfortunately the mindset of the boys in the program. I will not deny that a sense of freedom is important but there is a line that should be drawn. At Acts4Youth, we are there to bring attention the line between what they can do and what they should do. As I sit next to one of rather “rowdy” boys, Jacqez, I question him as to why he is making these loud noises or yelling across the classroom. He’ll stop for a second, and then start up again. Almost as a slap in the face, saying that I cant do anything to stop him, he can do whatever he wants-freedom.
One very important factor of Acts4Youth is that we are on their side and there to help them. The guidance counselor, teachers, and volunteers are not there to hurt them in any way. In “The Cask of Amontillado”, Edgar Allen Poe writes about being stabbed in the back. Fortunato does not realize that the man is leading him to his death. The people at the program are leading the boys to the bright side, avoiding, at all cost, the dark side. Their aim is to shape the boys to be the best they can and eventually help them graduate high school, go to college, and get a job. The boys must be reminded that although the teachers are forcing them to do think about their actions and behave, they are the good guys. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between who is there to help and who will just end up hurting you in the future. Unfortunately, Fortunato did not realize early enough and he kept pushing himself, ending in his death. It is not too late for the boys at the Guilford school and I honestly hope they realize we’re on their side.