It’s time for the old guard to step aside

     (Hands reaching out image courtesy of

    (Hands reaching out image courtesy of

    Our young people are not only our future; they are our “now.” They are the difference between a new prison and a new school, a dropout and a graduate. They are the force that keeps those ahead of them on their toes and pushing to do better.

    The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.

    Our young people are not only our future; they are our “now.” They are the difference between a new prison and a new school, a dropout and a graduate. They are the force that keeps those ahead of them on their toes and pushing to do better.

    Too often, the great torch isn’t passed to the next generation. Greed and deception become the mentality of stingy leaders, afraid of losing status and power, who feel threatened by anyone trying to simply help.

    Without an opportunity to develop as leaders, young people may regress. Many are screaming for attention with out-of-control behavior.

    Kids and adults communicate differently

    In working with kids ages 11-18, I realize they communicate according to their experiences. Whereas a mature individual can articulate his or her feelings, the young people I work with will hint at them by acting out during sessions, fighting, missing programs, being late. Usually these are signs of a deeper issue.

    Yet when I visit schools to speak to students about summer jobs and other programs, their attitude and demeanor changes, because I’m offering them an alternative, an opportunity.

    I teach a poetry workshop, and eventually I get students to open up to me. They express their frustration with being poor, financially unstable, abused. Some feel irrelevant. The one thing they all agree on is that they just want a chance and a voice. Some have patience, but others give up and become disgruntled.

    I ran for city commissioner in 2011. One of the main obstacles I encountered was that current leaders said I was too young and I needed to wait my turn. “What does that mean?” I thought — a wasted opportunity to use a young person in a positive way. While it didn’t lead me to act out, I can certainly relate to the feelings of my students who have fewer opportunities than I do.

    Careers of manipulation

    Our leaders have to be held to a higher standard. If the high school drop out rate is increasing, we have to examine parents, teachers, principals, on up to the superintendent. No one should be exempt, and accountability starts with the ones in in charge. If you can’t do the job, move out of they way, and train your replacements. Don’t make a career out of being an elected manipulator.

    We have become a vulnerable society open to ignorance, easily persuaded. It is too easy to let “majority rule” stop us from trying to have an impact on this city.

    There are many individuals who work tirelessly every day to improve the quality of life for people around them. I applaud our block captains, coaches, tutors, hospitality ministries, helpers, motivators, believers, volunteers, and most importantly those who “do” — because there is a burning desire inside to help, inspire, create, and make someone or something better than it was when they found it. It takes a great leader to bring a dream to fruition with a high level of motivation and limited to no resources.

    Positive examples

    Some of Philadelphia’s inspirational leaders under 30 are taking a more proactive approach to helping young people succeed than our elected leaders.

    Alex Peay — grew up in Brooklyn and moved to Philly, bringing with him a mission to help young men ages 18-28 become qualified for competitive jobs through civil engagement with his non-profit organization Rising Sons.

    Johnny Patterson — an accomplished leader in public service, dedicated his life to youth empowerment.

    Rachael Hanible — just 26 years old and an accomplished author of the inspirational book “Pot of Gold” and founder of Daughters of the True Savior, a faith-based mentoring group for teen girls.

    Isaiah Thomas — 28, coach, servant leader, professor, and trainer, spends countless hours volunteering with children and young adults.

    Marvin Dutton — created a company dedicated to the education of students through tutoring and school readiness for pre-K students.

    Amos Leak — 25, M.S. from Delaware State University, mentors young children through the Hunting Park Warriors Program.

    All of these young people have qualifications, and they are up for the challenge. They are making a much-needed move in Philadelphia. I urge you to reach out to our current generation of young adults with internships, volunteer programs, even paid positions. They should not be limited, discouraged, or led astray.

    Ivy Staten lives in the West Oak Lane neighborhood of Philadelphia and was a Democratic candidate for city commissioner in 2011.

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