A story of one of our many youth and why I do what I do. My name is Jimmy and I am the Academic and STEM Specialist at North Beach-Chinatown Beacon. The first time I encountered this young man, he growled at me and postured like he was trying to crack chestnuts between his muscles. I was a new staff and my interactions with him for the first month were passive. He seemed to have no reason or desire to talk to me, and he made it very clear.
If you don’t take the time to get to know him, his rough exterior can often push people away. He seems to love it when people perceive him as tough and edgy. Often miss-understood, he has learned to act in a certain way where he thrives on his intimidating demeanor. I can see right through it. As I take the time to get to know him through persistent one-on-one conversations, I start to learn that he has passions and dreams like most kids. He is an exceptional soccer player. Even though he doesn’t talk about it or try to represent it, he is a prodigy when he has a soccer ball at his feet. He’s so talented that his stories about his Sunday league games are jaw-dropping as it is something I look forward to hearing about every Monday. As I take the time listen to him talk about his passions and the things that he cares about, I can see the multiple layers to his persona.
There aren’t many things better than when I have a good day spent with this young man. It is mind blogging how hot or cold sometimes his interactions are and how differently he responds to adults who don’t take the time to show their sincere interest in him and to those that do. He has good days and bad days, like any other youth but unlike others his bad days truly scare me. It sometimes feels like he may never have a good one again. Our interactions and his mood are always in flux but I can’t blame him though, that is unfortunately just what the environment he grew up in has fostered.
His moral compass and mannerisms are a reflection of his home environment. Even as he matures, his bad habits sometimes persist. As people who take the time to know him we understand that we can’t force the persona that he wishes to develop. Regardless, we strive to provide him with experiences that push him to critically analyze his actions and the consequences of those actions. We see that through being around and participating our Beacon Program he is learning that he can drop the posture and just be his jester-like-self while upholding good morals.
I have hopes that as he grows and looks back he’s able to find solace with everything he’s experienced both good and bad. Unlike myself, he has first-hand subaltern knowledge that is the best foundation for teaching empathy. Our belief and hopes in him realizing his potential in helping others is what fuels our actions and makes it easy for me to come to work every day.