If there is one thing I have learned from going to service at the Guilford School it is that the boys have what it takes, the power, to create the future they want. I work with a specific group of 3 boys and in the three hours I sit with them every Monday, I learn so much about each of them. I learn about their likes/dislikes, hear about their hopes and dreams and most important, I see their potential. Acts 4 youth teaches these young boys about teamwork, self-discipline, respect and responsibility. These traits are used to reinforce the importance of good decision making and overcoming peer pressure and succumbing to things that will interfere with their future and success. In relation to the readings for this week, Acts 4 youth emphasizes seizing opportunities that come your way and taking charge of your own life.
Not only does Richard Hague’s poem, “Directions for Resisting the SAT”, give tips on how to do poorly on the SAT’s, “do not observe thru les of gravity, commons, history,” but rather it challenges the reader to take charge. Why should we spend our lives following grammatical rules and memorizing facts about life of George Washington? The speaker tells the reader to “listen to no one.” Now, when it comes to the Guilford school, I do not urge the students to disobey the teacher and ignore the rules of the classroom. I do think the students should think outside the box and work hard for what they desire. I can understand and empathize with their frustration of school work throughout the day. The boys are forced to learn subjects that do not apply to them and they are not aware of when all of it will “come into play.” Most know that the school day is filled with busy work of things they “have” to learn, but why do they have to know this? How does this pertain to them and their direct future? Hague ends the poem saying “make your marks on everything.” If you’re going to do something, do it big. As they say, “go big, or go home.” I can honestly say that if the students at Guilford put as much energy in their future as they do joking around in the classroom, they would be successful and happy. The truth of the matter is that they won’t put in the same amount of energy or effort because that do not see the point. I feel as though the boys get discouraged when they don’t understand a certain subject or assignment, but as made clear in the poem, one test, or assignment, should not determine their future and should not discourage them from potential success.
“First Practice”, a poem by Gary Gildner, has a much different feel. The coach comes off as very strict and demanding, but inspiring in a sense. He allows an opportunity for the boys to leave, but no one does. The boys made the commitment to the team and are determined to win. At any moment, the boys at the Guilford can just get up and storm out. In the weeks I have been there, I have never witnessed this. I have seen boys get frustrated, complain, give up on the work in the moment, but with just a little bit of encouragement and a reminder of why we are all there…they keep going. I feel as though I am a cheerleader on the sidelines for the boys at the school. I keep them on track, but stay on their side. I tell them that I understand that the work may seem too hard, or too easy, just not right. In the poem, the coach makes it clear that practice will be hard, but that they all have their eyes on the same thing: to win. If the boys at Guilford keep their mind on the endless possibilities of their future, the hardships right now won’t will just act as minor setbacks.
“Serving Hope” by Stephanie Shapiro tells the story of the Simpson’s who have made a program to help individuals who have had drug problems or were convicts. Galen Simpson is a chef who started a free culinary program by getting a grant from the Baltimore Community Fellowship program. His wife started her “own society fellowship to bring a literacy program to incarcerated mothers and their children”. Brock and Lewis who are the main two individuals talked about in the story were found from a local recovery program. The two now work at Simpson’s restaurant. Brock says she “feels valued” at the restaurant and is treated well. Despite any past decisions, Brock and Lewis are able to start fresh and feel important. The boys at school are well aware of their surroundings and some feel as though there is no point in putting hard work into their studies. This story is a success story. It is inspiring. At anytime the kids can change their fate and decide their future. There are no excuses; it is their choice, their responsibility, their opportunity.
Bharati Mukherjee displays the harm that occurs when decision making is taken away in the short story “A Father”. Babli is pregnant and Mr. Bhowmick is concerned that the baby will be born out of wedlock but is also excited at the thought of a grandson running around. Babli finally admits that her baby does not have a father, rather “a bottle and syringe.” Mr. Bhowmick lets her explain her opinion but does not take a second to think about his actions. He hits her stomach with a rolling pin. This rash decision changes everything in the family. It is vital for, not only the boys at Guilford, but everyone to think before they act. Decisions made can not only change their lives but the people around them. It was stated in a meeting with Acts4Youth that the students that Guilford is filled with three groups: for lack of better terms, the high, medium, and low students. The “high” students will be accepted into private schools, the “medium” students will go to Votech, get a simple job, and some may go to college. It is the “low” students that everyone must worry about. The leader explained to our group that a small amount of these will go to school and that the rest have to potential to turn in the wrong direction. It’s terrible to think about this. I find it hard to imagine the young, sweet, and social boys I’ve gotten the opportunity to know will go down the wrong path. What’s even worse is the thought that their decisions won’t only influence their life, but everyone around them, including me, you, the students that live in homeland, or the students who need to walk to CVS on a Thursday night. It is the brash decisions, for whatever reason, that can that ability to impact more than just one person. It is these decisions that deserve a second thought.
People reinforce the thought that hard work, determination, and faith can get you anywhere you want to go. It is more than that, it is the decision to work hard, be determined, and have faith that can change a future.