As summer comes to a close and school begins anew I wanted to take some time to highlight something special in DC. The Mayor’s Conservation Corps.
This is a city sponsored effort to provide district youth with social employment. They get paid $7.25/hour and participate in programs like graffiti removal, cleaning parks, community projects, outreach, and more.
It is really a fantastic program for our fair city, which is in need of some beautification. Especially the non-NorthWest affluent areas. Then our kids, oh gosh, have you seen some of these youngsters. If so you would appreciate any sort of mentoring and productive leadership directed their way.
So, it surprises me that so many folks are decrying this effort. Nearly every article, and I mean every article except one or two, knock down this effort. They focus on the mistakes, goofiness, and sometimes rebellion that occurs. Which begs the question, have you ever hung out with the youth?
That is exactly how they are. Even the good ones will act tough and cool. But beneath it all is a sincere desire to help, find guidance, and grow as people. Maybe your ‘tough’ articles would be better if you actually looked beneath the surface and learned about our youth.
Even worse, the city’s world renowned newspaper, the Washington Post, has not published one article about this. Not one. This is embarrassing for them since they have time to write about our Metro failings and crime issues.
As a former middle school teacher I understand this problem better than most. These children are in desperate need of leadership and guidance, not more oppression and problems. I once saw Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of DC Public Schools, speak on this topic. It nearly brought me, her, and everyone else to tears as she told a story of her mentoring program. One that links up a child with an adult. It is very successful and always in need of more help.
The story she told was of one child who said he would do whatever it took to participate. He offered to ride his bike every morning and evening clear across the city. He begged and cried to be a part. Then when given the opportunity he actually did bike all those miles.
So, I challenge this city and its residents to look beneath the cover of this book. Learn about these kids and talk to them. Support these initiatives and maybe even get involved. They are the future of this city.
Finally, I want to salute the DDOE, District Dept of the Environment, and their team for doing a great, unheralded job with this years Conservation Corps.