Boston is not such a large city that youth at risk cannot be better identified for comprehensive early intervention by parents, teachers and other school officials, police, public health officials, probation officers, youth workers, clergy, and others, at the very first signs of risk. There needs to be a renewed emphasis on breaking the cycle where youth at risk become youthful offenders, then repeat offenders, then adult felons.
The fact is that criminals — particularly career, repeat felons — are not born. They are typically a product of disadvantaged upbringing, including social and educational challenges; lack of positive role models; extreme violence on TV and in movies, and in music, computer games, and other pop culture media; exposure to drugs and alcohol at an early age; inadequate access to substance abuse rehabilitation programs when needed; and a lack of economic opportunity.
Such early intervention must be combined with a city mentor program, which will call upon the volunteer efforts of successful Boston-area professionals. Instead of the usual reliance on local athletes and music stars as role models, we need to enlist successful doctors and lawyers, teachers and professors, fire fighters, law enforcement officers, paramedics, writers, chefs, software engineers, bankers and successful business men and woman of all kinds.
"Real world role models, paricularly men and women of color, whose attainments are the product of schooling and studies, will serve to better inspire our city's young people than one-in-a-million celebrities whose successes fuel improbable adolescent fantasies of successful music and sports careers," Michael points out.
Michael agrees with First Lady Michelle Obama, who recently called for realistic new role models for our children. In her May commencement address to the graduates of Bowie State University, the First Lady suggested that “Instead of walking miles every day to school, [children today are] sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper." She called on each graduate to "be an example of excellence for the next generation.” Michael believes we can help lead that effort here in Boston.