215 South 16th Street – Suite 16 Philadelphia, PA19102-3349     

A Diamond in the Rough (Dec 2009)


Most of us are familiar with studies that tie crime and incarceration to the lack of education. My experience last month outweighed any data from the most credible surveys on this topic. .


On this particular Tuesday my friend, lets call him Jamal, was not present at the weekly youth anti-violence group session that he and his friend, lets call him Steve, provide for an ‘inner’ city recreation center. We did not have a definite topic because Jamal forgot to give us his agenda for this session. Steve hurried the 5 to 6 young men, between the ages of 12 to 16, into a circle of chairs while trying to think of a tonight’s subject of discussion. Steve, staying in tow with the group’s mission, asked a few questions to gage the boy’s feelings on school violence


The resultant conversations led me to ask each of these young men the following question -


Me: Do believe that you have the ability to study and become a doctor?


Each one of these ‘troubled’ youth responded the same way. First my eyes locked to their expression of me being audacious enough to ask such a question. When my poker face remained, their eyes seemed to glaze over, as if they were surveying themselves from within. Each one took about 60 seconds before preparing their answer with a defiant scowl. I pray I hid my surprise when each one of these young men from ‘under privileged’ neighborhoods and ‘dysfunctional’ families said yes.


Their response is defined as a 100% positive survey response. My peripheral research on the chances of this response by similar youth said otherwise. I was taken aback, but recollected my emotions, and asked each of them one last question -


Me: If you had a friend that always talks about being a doctor, or any other type of profession, would they be more likely to walk away from a violent confrontation?


One of the young men attends my alma mater. I told him about my involvement with the BEST Robotics program at the school and asked if he knew the teacher in charge of the team. He said he recalled my description of the teacher, so I encouraged him to see the teacher next week with the intention of joining the team. I felt very gracious for being in a place where I was able to at least give a young person the opportunity to experience something new and interesting in their life.


Please consider involving our societies ‘discarded’ youth in your existing and future programs and activities. You may discover a diamond in the rough.


Contact Info:

Cell: 215.880.4094

Email: DiscoverE@pspe-philly.org

Website: http://www.pspe-philly.org/k-12/k-12.html


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