Thousands of youth within San Diego County are struggling through severe adversity. Lack of food or shelter, separation from family, abuse and neglect are just some of the struggles they face on a daily basis. These extreme circumstances cause some to succumb to the temptations of gangs, substances or criminal activity. These outward choices reflect an internal struggle.
This internal struggle is characterized by an excessive amount of anger, guilt, stress, fear and grief. Many react with aggression without regard for the well-being of themselves of others, while others have lost hope for their lives to improve and have become apathetic. The amount of discomfort they experience is often overwhelming and many have underdeveloped or detrimental critical thinking, problem solving and decision making skills.
If these students do make it to school, they are rarely calm, comfortable or prepared to listen and learn. Often they exhibit behavioral problems in the classroom or on campus that negatively impact the learning environment for themselves and the students around them. Typically, these students are sent to detention or removed from the classroom, which does not allow them to truly learn how to responsibly manage their thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
This cycle is damaging for all of us, whether it affects the education of other youth or generates increased crime or substance abuse in our communities. Their struggle affects us all.
While adversity is inevitable, youth still have the capacity for progress but they need a vision and path towards a better way of living in order to do so. They need opportunities to develop essential life skills, which will help them navigate the inevitable challenges of life more effectively.