Group discussion focuses on youth behavior

By Lyric Mattair
Outlook writer

Neighborhoods in Tallahassee have to work cohesively to solve issues that are affecting the behavior of young people in their communities, a group seeking answers concluded during a two-hour discussion Saturday at Tallahassee Community College.

Another consensus reached by those who spoke is that parents have to be more responsible in identifying problems that their children might be facing.

The event was organized by Caldwell’s Center of Hope, an organization headed by 23-year-old Stephen Caldwell with the intent of creating ways to develop young people as productive citizens. That, in part, was a reason for the event, Stephen said.

Speakers included Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil and Dr. Judy Mandrell, who spent 18 years with the Department of Children and Families as a counselor in protective services and foster care.
“We have to come together and help each other out,” said Caldwell. “Systems energize culture, culture motivates people and people produce actions. I know we can do it.”

With many young people living in single-parent homes and often that parent has to work more than one job, some children are left at home, Mandrell said. That creates social issues that are played out publically, she said.

“A lot of youth don’t have that genuine love at home,” she said. “Instead of jumping to conclusions and being quick to give up on the youth, let’s help them, show them that their community supports them and that we are willing to be that listening ear.”

One way of doing that is for communities to establish relationships with young people and avoid being judgmental, she said.

McNeil took the conversation a little further, saying that even the distasteful sight of young boys wearing sagging pants can be fixed if individuals take the time to address them in the right way. Role models also are important to character development, he said.

“We have a community, but we don’t have those entrepreneurs, golf players and other role models to lead the way and show our youth the right routes to take,” McNeil said. “Until we come together, there will not be a change.”

The discussion was personal for Crystal Harris, mother of two children. Admittedly, she said, times have changed and some of the ways parents reprimanded their children can’t be used or is simply ineffective today.

The way to raise a child isn’t as easy as a one-size-fits-all resolution, she said.

“We have to really take out the time to talk to them and have a connection,” Harris said. “Although (chastising) is the old traditional way of consequence, it doesn’t work for every kid.

“Just a little support, love and acceptance are all that a lot of youth yearn for. Individuals can’t continue to use old techniques to a new situation.”