Thursday, September 17, 2009

Letter to a Juvenile Delinquent

Dear "Jorge,"

I've known you since you were 8 years old. You have always been a very special kid and there are many people who love you and want to help you. Your second grade teacher cares very much about you and put you in my class specially because she knew that you were a smart, good kid and she believed in you. You were the only kid in my third grade class who I gave my phone number to because I trusted you and I wanted to help you if you were in trouble. Both Mr. Smith and I love you like you were our own kid.

I know that you're really really angry right now and you feel out of control and like nothing is fair and like you're going to explode. You have seen some horribly messed up things and you had a lot of time when you were just a little kid and no one was taking care of you. Nobody should have had to live through some of the things you've lived through. We can't change that. But right now, there are people who want to help you and you won't let us.

Think about it - who knows what jail is like? Your friends or your mom? Your mom has been there and she's scared of you going because she knows how bad it is. And you know that both skipping school and not getting your court date are both things that will make sure you go to juvie. Staying in school and doing well is something that the judge might consider and let you off more easily.

And who knows what it's like to get a job as an adult? Who knows how important school is? I went to college and worked really hard and that's why I got to choose which job I wanted. Mr. Smith waited a little longer and tried to get good jobs but found out that he had to get more education to do the job he wanted. He worked hard and now he has a job that he likes and that you have said you would like. Your mom and grandma didn't get to have that kind of education and they want you to be able to live better than them when you are grown. I think that you know that too but you're so mad that you want to keep fighting us and not doing what we think is a good idea.

I am so proud of you when you make decisions that are good for yourself that will make your life better. You worked so hard at your new school last year and you looked happy and liked learning. I think you could do that again this year but you're the only one who can do it. When you make decisions that you know are bad and you know will hurt you, I am so sad. I'm sad not for myself, but because I want your life to get better, not worse.

Jorge, you have so many people who care about you and want to help you. Your mom, your grandma, me, Mr. Smith, Ms. W., Mr. G., all the people at your school last year, all the people at your school this year, and all the people at camp this summer want you to be happy and be able to do what you want. That's a LOT of people wanting good things for you! You have had really bad things happen to you, but we really want to help you turn that around. Only, we can't do that when you fight us.

Can you please do me a favor? Can you think about who it is in your life who has been around the longest and showed the most that they cared about you? Can you not listen to your friends or even your girlfriend, just for a minute, but listen to the people who have known you since you were a little kid and always wanted good things for you?

Remember I said that once you start making good decisions, you can do things like choose your own school, get a job, and all the other things you want to do? We are waiting for you to make those good decisions every day. Your school has more help for you than almost any other school. Camp wants to pay for you to come back.

Please think about what you really want and call me if you're ready to start trying to change things and make them better. You know that I would do anything for you but I can't help you unless you start wanting help.

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