John Morris commentary

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Guest Commentary by John Morris

Community action needed to increase options for youth

By John Morris

Editor’s Note: John Morris serves as president of Stop The Ongoing Problem (STOP), a local group organized in the aftermath of a gang-related death in the community earlier this year. The group meets monthly and welcomes all interested participants.

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The STOP organization is thoroughly convinced that it is only through changes in employment opportunities, schools and other institutions at the community level that gang-related problems can ultimately be solved.

Gangs exists to satisfy desperate  needs young people have for protection, a sense of empowerment and group membership, mentoring and employment.

Youths who are most at risk are those marginalized by discrimination based on class, race, and nationality. There are many underlying factors that nourish gang activities.

One of them is living in neighborhoods with few opportunities. This situation cannot be completely overcome by youths on their own or even with the help of parents and mentors, but must be dismantled politically and economically. Through community action, advocacy and institutional change, we can all play a role in solving the gang problem in Panola County.

Those who have studied these problems state, “Gangs are businesses built around a formidable drug economy. They realize that youths are a valuable resource, and they are serving an unmet economic need in low-income communities. Businesses, schools, nonprofit organizations and government should come together to create a viable economic strategy to employ youths, meet financial need and realize their potential as contributors to our economy.”

Panola County businesses and civic groups should invest in proven activities that will help our young people resist the life choices that lead to involvement in gangs.

We are calling upon you to contribute by offering internships to area students and provide job training and placement services during the summer.

Businesses have a vested interest in keeping the community they serve free of gang activity. Together, we can provide jobs and support of agencies  that serve youth in need and at-risk of gang affiliation. The possibilities are limitless.

Will you commit to hiring at least one at-risk youth this summer?