Are Youth the Problem?

For the past few months turning on the news in South Florida has been heartbreaking to say the least. Innocent children being gunned down playing in the streets, teens beating and robbing individuals, and young people going on high speed police chases in stolen vehicles. Stories of young people wreaking havoc in our communities have become common place but are youth to blame?

I think too often we look at youth as the problem of our community and overlook the many conditions within our communities that lead to their bad decisions.

I believe that if properly prepared, our youth can become job creators rather than job seekers, they can be seen as problem solvers for global issues such as cancer, HIV and world hunger instead of being seen as the face of the problems in our communities.

Last week I attended My Future My Choice a community town hall that kicked off a yearlong initiative, put on by ABC News Affiliate WPLG-Local 10 News, to bring resolve to some of the issues of youth violence in South Florida. The initiative aims to not only look at the challenges in our communities but also highlight those who are working in our cities to build more prosperous communities. We spoke with the parents of those young people who lost their lives to gun violence, community leaders who are making an impact, and successful business and civic leaders who grew up in our local communities and have now created a wonderful path of success that many youths can follow. After I left the event I said this is a great step in the right direction.

For the past 3-years, as Managing Director of BMe Community and former Chair of the South Florida Youth Summit, I've been able to meet some really influential leaders who work with youth and young adults who are making great impacts in communities across the country. And one thing I've learned from all of them is that our collective role is to support young people and believe in their capacity to create a community and nation in which they want to live. And the best way to do that is by providing space and opportunity for young people to grow and flourish.

Now I'm not saying let's ignore all the problems in our community but if we focus on youth as the problem we'll never get to true optimal solutions that build strong communities. We need to invest in young people with our time, talent and most importantly treasure. We need to equip them with means to better themselves and their families both academically and financially. This means, we who have the means to do so, build a society with a strong economy, strong education system and a strong social and civic culture that ensures a high quality of life for everyone.

This week I will be joining my fellow community leaders at the Annual South Florida Youth Summit where leaders will create an environment that encourages our youth to become change agents. I will be joined by local and national leaders to include Civil Rights Legend and Congressman John Lewis; Co-Founder of the Mourning Family Foundation Tracy Mourning; Executive Director of the Dream Defenders Umi Selah; Author/Mentor Specialist Shawn Blanchard; South Florida Community Activist Tangela Sears; and WPLG Anchor Constance Jones who will be featured at "Where Generations Meet" on Friday.

The Summit is from April 22, 2016 - April 24, 2016. For more information visit www.sfyouthsummit.com.

If we are relentless in our pursuit to build more caring and prosperous communities and support youth in the development of their ideas, skills, aspirations and talents then we would be on the right course for building a strong future for South Florida and the nation.