I always ask myself what will our young people do without support and guidance. It saddens me when I see innocent children playing outside past eight o’clock with no parental guidance, hearing of another child being a victim of something like rape or child abuse, or one of our youth committing a crime that will totally destroy their character and life forever. When I compare my upbringing to that of today’s youth, I realize times are much different. There are more single mothers than ever before, families are more dependent on public assistance, city schools and community groups have lack of funding for youth programs, and young people don’t have access to role models to EMPOWER them to achieve higher goals.
I attended high school in North Philadelphia, an area plagued by poverty, blight and low performing schools. The frustration of no books, lack of school resources, and disruptions from students distracted some of our teachers, leading them to become disciplinarians for the students who were hard to control, or teaching at a level that did not push students like me who wanted to learn to our highest potential. Denial of adequate education is a great disservice which sets the stage for future life choices. Although a fortunate few of us graduated from high school, attended college and secured careers, many had children very early, worked low wage jobs, sold drugs or engaged in other illegal acts that got them sent to prison, or were murdered.
I often wondered what set us “fortunate few” apart from our peers and helped us to excel despite the odds stacked against us. I soon realized that many of us who excelled had mentors who helped us imagine a world beyond our current circumstances and aim high for success.
I knew I had to do something to give back the mentorship given to me. First, I became a “neighborhood advocate”, reaching out to youth in my own community to have frank conversations about sex, peer pressure, school, the importance of attending college and even helped those who would not attend college with filling out job applications so that they could help financially support their families. After seeing positive results and impact, I felt my purpose was to help young people, and later became one of the youth leaders at my church. I tell every young person I come in contact with to never look at what’s around you, just focus on your future and beating the odds. I share my own story openly and frankly. I let them know that anything is possible.
After pushing those youth, I knew I had to further my own education. I first attended a one year technical school, then Chestnut Hill College where I received my Bachelors of Science in Business Communications and will be attending Arcadia University for my MBA.
Throughout my journey, it makes me feel good that I have made a positive impact on many young people. Whether at my church, at work, on the train, city streets and even the nail salon, I always make myself open and available to youth. My belief is if God is always available to me, why I can’t be available for Him to use me, to touch the lives of other people.
If I can impact the life of one young person a day, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot.
I encourage everyone, if you see a child that needs guidance please reach out and make a difference in that person’s life.
Here are a few resources:
Losing Our Youth HYPERLINK “http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=410936” http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=410936
Daniel E. Rumph II Foundation HYPERLINK “www.derii.org/” www.derii.org/
Philadelphia Youth Network HYPERLINK “www.pyninc.org” www.pyninc.org
Youth United for Change HYPERLINK “www.yucyouth.org” www.yucyouth.org
Big Brothers Big Sisters HYPERLINK “www.bbbs.org” www.bbbs.org
Safiya D. Elliotte has 10 years of experience in youth advocacy, she also has a Medical Assistant Certificate from Thompson Institute, and after realizing she wanted to change her profession, she decided to enroll at Chestnut Hill College where she obtained her Bachelors of Science in Business Communications and in the fall of 2010, she will be attending Arcadia University for her Masters in Business Administration.
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