From Backpacks to Briefcases
By Vincent Lyles
December is a month of gift-giving and celebrations. If you’re like me, your children, grandchildren or the special young ones in your life have shared their holiday wish list with you.
Many of us will do what we can to fulfill their wishes whether it’s a pair of roller skates, a video game system or an art set.
And like many children, they will be excited to get their gifts. Days, weeks or even months later, their beloved gifts might be broken, they have lost interest in or have outgrown them.
This holiday season, I propose giving gifts that fit any child no matter his or her age.
Let’s give them hope, peace and love.
These gifts will last all year and longer.
Let’s give our children hope by supporting their education. A solid education will bring them positive opportunities as future adults.
For instance, a child may hope to become a doctor, lawyer or teacher one day, but if he struggles to read and receives little or no help to improve his skills, he will find it difficult to keep up with his classmates.
As he falls behind academically, he becomes more discouraged and may even drop out of school.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee’s SPARK Early Literacy program, in partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools, aims to help young, struggling readers to be able to read at grade level by third grade.
SPARK, now in its seventh year and serving 450 students at 10 MPS/Boys & Girls Clubs locations, helps students master the reading skills they’re learning in the classroom, which adds to their growing success.
SPARK shows promise in teaching children how to read.
Along similar lines, our LEAP into Math program gives Boys & Girls Club members an extra boost outside of the classroom to improve their math skills.
The program also shows them how math has real life implications from creating an original game to baking a cake.
As concerned adults, we can be supportive of our children’s education in a number of ways.
We can help them with their homework, read to them, quiz them for a test, and attend parent-teacher conferences to name a few.
By actively supporting our children’s educational efforts, we’ll be helping more students graduate from high school ready to enter the workforce and/or continue their education at two- and four-year colleges and universities.
This past year, Milwaukee has seen 102 violent deaths, with more than 80 involving guns.
Let’s give our young people the gift of peace by teaching them how to settle their differences and conflicts non-violently.
Peace begins with teaching children and teens that a conflict or disagreement does not equal fighting or shooting.
This involves introducing them to new ways of thinking about how to handle conflicts and how their attitudes and behaviors influence the outcomes.
The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and its community partners, including Boys & Girls Clubs, are leading the Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI)-Ripple Effect Milwaukee.
VPI’s long -term focus is to reduce youth violence in Milwaukee’s neighborhoods.
MCW and its partners use best-practice and evidence- based models for “youth and family development programming aimed at preventing violence before it occurs, as well as building greater capacity throughout the community to prevent future violence.”
The lyrics from Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need of Love Today” still ring true: “Hate’s goin’ round breaking many hearts … stop it please before it’s gone too far.”
Let’s teach our children how to care about others by encouraging them to give of their time, talent and skills to help those in need.
At Boys & Girls Clubs, we have character and leadership development programs that give our pre-teens and teens opportunities to have a voice in issues that concern them.
Club members identify a need or cause and then organize and lead service projects that may benefit other youth or their neighbors.
For instance, Torch Club for pre-teens and Keystone Club for teen members have led various projects from clothing and food drives to neighborhood clean-ups to benefit dances that raise money for special causes such as victims of natural disasters.
Your children or teens could do similar projects either on their own or with a group.
Service projects can range from collecting toiletries for the homeless to shoveling the sidewalks and driveways of elderly neighbors.
By teaching our youth to love beyond their families, they develop values and behaviors that will build their positive self-image and identity.
Unlike wrapping boxes for holiday gifts, the best way to give the gifts of hope, peace and love is for us adults to live them each day.
Children and teens pay more attention to what we do than what we say.
As the adage goes, actions speak louder than words.
• Let’s build hope by pursuing lifelong education.
• Encourage peace by maintaining calm minds.
• Let’s grow love by lending our talents and skills to aid those in need.
If we all practice giving hope, peace and love, 2014 will be an amazing year! Happy Holidays!