Last week, I had the opportunity, along with a group that included professors, ministers, social workers and professors, to visit the Saint Charles Youth Detention Center. Saint Charles houses children, ages 13-21, who have been charged with all kinds of criminal activity. I was asked to come down to participate in a roundtable discussion about what can be done to help these young men become productive citizens.
The warden began to talk with such passion about how the recidivism for some of the young men was as high as six stays in his facility. The warden asked us what could be done to help while at his facility to better equip the young men for the outside. I told the warden we should ask the young boys that question because I have learned when you allow young people to speak, they will give you all the answers you need.
Out of approximately 200 young men I met, at least 160 were young black boys who, in my opinion, are being acclimated to the prison system. While having a discussion with these young boys, one of the professors asked how many of them wanted to go to college, and I would say maybe 75 percent raised their hands. So I asked how many of them would be interested in owning their own businesses. Again, about the same majority raised their hands.
As we went back to the meeting room to discuss more about what we had learned, there was a sense of amazement that most of our young boys want to go to college and most are interested in owning a business. While this was a major finding to some, for me it was not. I have found that every young person wants the same things when they are young. However, life happens and people make choices that affect them the rest of their lives.
Back to the question about what can be done to direct these young men in the right direction, I thought that here was a chance for us to really help, so I jumped right in and began to speak about the benefits of these young men learning about business and the chance to give them a viable option-young men who rarely have options. The warden began to say how that was good, but he really wanted these young men to have jobs.
Why in the world are we stuck on the whole job thing? Why is it so important for us to work for someone else? I see every other ethnic group wanting and going after their own businesses. Can it possibly be that this is one of our biggest problems? We are waiting to be hired, instead of creating employment for our families and ourselves. I often wonder what would happen if we began to create young entrepreneurs. Maybe, just maybe, it would give our young people a chance to control their own destiny.
What would happen if we trained our children at an early age to have pride in workmanship, punctuality and loyalty to their customers? Business plan writing as a class would be invaluable. We should allow them the opportunity to learn how to landscape. We should teach them about supply and demand, marketing a legal product, or how to run some type of business while they are being detained.
I am a firm believer that one man has one job. One business owner can employ as many as needed. I hope that we can train our young men to explore their options.