This past Friday, a group of determined, strong young people from Baltimore City and County were honored for their completion of the Y New Horizons II summer program for homeless youth. This vitally important program provides safety and security during the summer when school is closed but that is really just the beginning of what it provides. With life skills like financial literacy, resume writing and college visits along with paid work internships and a lot of love and support from Y associates and volunteers, this program is really about breaking the cycle of poverty and unlocking the great potential so evident in these strong young people and in us all.
Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis was our guest speaker. Recognizing the energy and depth of potential in the room, he told the students that the average age of police recruits is just 26, not far from the ages of the students to whom he spoke and he invited them to consider a career in law enforcement. To further reinforce the opportunity, he promised the students that the police department would offer internships to program participants next summer. Given the strife and mistrust that has emerged of late around police and community relations, his words and his presence had particular meaning and we are very grateful to Commissioner Davis for his sincere commitment to our City and to our young people.
Though Commissioner Davis was our “headliner,” the real stars are, of course, the young people themselves, some of whom gave testimonies about their experiences in the program in speeches and also in a creative video depicting their wishes for themselves and each other.
Meyauna Campbell was one of the speakers and was an intern in the Y’s association office this summer. This was her seond year in the program. She is a student at Baltimore Polytechnic High School. Her speech was powerful, hopeful, searching and insightful. It depicts a young woman struggling to make sense of, and improve upon, a difficult world and find her place and voice within it. They are words of a budding leader with great passion and potential.
Our mission is dedicated to unlocking potential in all. If you were to look up that word in the dictionary (remember those?) it might say “see Meyauna Campbell.”
Here are her words.
As we know there are a lot things going on in today’s society and to be more specific Baltimore city. With me saying that, I know it doesn’t take much thought to already know what I mean by that. It doesn’t take much thought at all actually because we see it. We see what’s going on, we see the violence and negativity and most of the time instead of ending those events we point fingers and pass judgment upon it and those involved. Our generation plays victim to that judgment due to the acts that we bring upon ourselves. We act very uncaring and selfish. We act as if we don’t know right from wrong. We act with no knowledge of ourselves. And with this all being known we are looked at very pessimistically.
This morning the judgment should be adjusted; the youth sitting here today represents our generation as well. We are a voice for those who found a better and more positive way to live. Let’s be honest with each other and ourselves, we know what the world has made normal. It’s normal to see a fourteen year old girl walking around with no more purity and not a clue on what innocence may look like. It’s typical to approach a young man in search of a new customer selling everything but merchandise. We watch babies have babies, without the knowledge on how to even take care of them. And what do you do as our over lookers? In fear, you act with hopes that you can prevent what can happen to us as your children from what the world has come to. Although, we don’t need protection from what the world may make us encounter.
You scold us for the mistakes that we make, but hinder us from the life lessons that we are trying to and could learn from. And by doing this you prevent us from showing who we are. We are not just the average teenager who is defined by what’s going on around them. We are not drug dealers. We are not fast little girls. We aren’t aliens distracted by our electronic devices. We will not be defined by our race. We will not be put into this box of assumptions based off of your opinion of our generation. I am not some “light skinned girl” giving a speech today. I am a sister, a daughter, a care taker, a dreamer, your future psychologist. I am a determined young lady who will become everything I want to be like any other youth sitting here today.
We have future cosmetologists, future lawyers, young entrepreneurs, upcoming photographers, computer engineers; authors, doctors, the next top athletes sitting among us today. Not because we had our hands held into wishing to become these things, but because we desire more for ourselves. We took the initiative to be the change that, not only you wish to see, but for what we as an individual wish to see as well. And what comes with this is self-appreciation. From past experience, I have learned that lots of people can be satisfied with what you have done, but at the end of the day what matters is you being satisfied with yourself. Knowing that you are okay with who you are and what you’re doing with yourself and your life will always bring you eternal happiness. And that goes for everyone not just the youth.
Adults, you must be alright with the circumstances you are in or be open minded enough to change them. Be comfortable with yourselves to make life with your children, the future, a life style of happiness. So I say all of this to say that we cannot keep dividing each other. Truth is adults you are not a savior and youth you do not need to be rescued. We all play a role in this world whether it may be good or bad, caretaker or receiver or even strong or weak. What matters is that we all play our part to work together in harmony. As a whole, we will succeed. We are what’s next in the future. This is our world, so why ruin it ? Let’s take possession and live united to make this world superior. Thank you.
With all the challenges we face today as a community, and even given the evident strife within the words of this blossoming adolescent, I am so heartened and motivated by the hopefulness and determination which comes shining through this young woman and so many others like her. They are reason enough to double down on our cause and make the Meyauna Campbells of the world proud of the adults in the room!
I want to thank our wonderful associates, volunteers, funders and partners for once again opening the doors of opportunity to these very promising young people. Special thanks to Y Association Board volunteer Donna Wilson for always showing up to literally help hand out award certificates, but more importantly, always showing up to support our cause.
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland