7 Things to Keep in Mind – Part I

Seven Things to Keep in Mind

1. Why gangs exist: Gangs are primarily composed of kids who are not succeeding in school and have no healthy interests or activities outside of school: This creates a group of kids who have nothing to do with their time, nothing to look forward to, don’t feel good about themselves and have no sense of future. These are horrible things to have in common and base friendship on, but this is what attracts gang youth to each other.

2. Why incarceration doesn’t solve the problem: You can’t punish someone who has nothing to lose: Jail is nothing to be afraid of when a person has no future and nothing in the present to look forward to. He knows his life will be exactly the same when he gets out. 

3. Don’t waste time on the symptom: Leaving the gang is not the goal: It is not hard to leave a gang. The hard part is developing healthy interests that create the potential for positive peer groups and new friendships.  I have worked with scores of gang members who became decent adults. It happened naturally as they gained skills and self-esteem. They never made a big announcement about “leaving the gang,” and their true gang friends were glad to see them doing better in life.

4. Focus on the solution: All kids must have at least one activity that brings them a sense of pride, competence and belonging: The best thing you can do for an at-risk or gang involved youth is make sure they are succeeding at something which makes them proud, keeps them busy, and allows them to identify with someone and something besides gang life. This can be a club or church group, sports, horseback riding, classic car restoration, a job, musical instrument, learning to dj, camping, art projects, etc. When a person has something to lose or look forward to, they take fewer risks. When they have a sense of pride and a positive identity, they do not develop a need to prove themselves through violence or numb themselves through addiction.

For more, tune in Friday!

Vicki Caruana

Vicki Caruana


2 responses to “7 Things to Keep in Mind – Part I

  1. I agree that it is critical for young people to find positive interests and activities in which to engage themselves. Interests that are healthy and even helpful for others. It is my opinion that a student can have great pride when put in the position of being responsible for others, like a peer mentor or peer tutor. I think we can all be creative in arranging opportunities for our students to develop positive interests and involvements.

  2. Gangs exist so members have a sense of belonging. It is up to us to (re) direct students into healthier, positive choices in which to belong like sports, computers, music, mentoring other students stc… They need 1 adult to care about their well-being and to show an interest in them. It can change lives. Building self-esteem has always been something I have tried to do with all of my students. Find 1 thing a student does well & use that to develop a rapport and build a healthy confidence & esteem with/for that student. There are many ways to do this that are relatively simple & effortless. It’s worth the effort for these kids!

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