Every Day Super Heroes

Scrolling through Facebook this morning, I came across a status post of my friend Charles’ conversation with one of his students at Hyde Park Career Academy:

Charles: How was your summer?

Student: I was in jail.

Charles: For what?

Student: Pistol charge…rather get caught with it than without it.

The sad truth is that many teens in Chicago have this mentality.  Faced with the difficult choice of having to protect themselves from violence, they see guns as their only line of defense.  And what’s even more sad is that this straight “A” student now has a criminal record that will more than likely follow him for the rest of his life.  Our kids can’t win for losing.

We’re losing our youth on every front.  Whether they’re caught up in the street life or doing everything in their power to do right, almost every black or brown child on the south and west sides of Chicago is existing in fear–and I say existing because there’s no way anyone could fully live surrounded by constant death, destruction and darkness.

But one glimmer of hope and light in this ugliness are the parents, educators and service-people that work to keep our youth inspired and optimistic.  Without much funding or resources, these people work tirelessly in their aspiration to provide youth with a perspective to which they may not have otherwise been exposed or had the ability to perceive.  And despite their day, their summer break, or their mentality, young people keep coming back because they feel that someone believes they’re worth it.
Today, I am grateful for people like my friend Charles who runs the Becoming A Man program.  Without him (and others like him), there may be countless more young lives lost to violence. I’m grateful for those who have chosen to be  mentors, knowing that their story and lives can be an inspiration for others.  And lastly, I’m grateful for the youth who make the bold choice to live in spite of the fear that threatens to dim their light. With all of you, all is not lost.

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Tanesha Peeples

South Side community leader Tanesha Peeples is a Chicago Public Schools alumna and proud Englewoodian. She currently serves on the board of the Montessori School of Englewood. Formerly, she served the Deputy Director of Outreach for Education Post, for whom she penned the long-running column Hope and Outrage. As an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University, Tanesha began to develop a passion for and understand the importance of public service. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration, she returned to Chicago with a new perspective on community, politics and civic engagement. Tanesha then attended and graduated from DePaul University with a master’s degree in public service management and urban planning and development. Throughout her professional career, Tanesha has used her education, passion and experience to navigate a number of nonprofit, political and independent ventures, advancing her mission to educate and empower marginalized populations. Prior to joining Education Post, she also managed her own consulting firm specializing in community relations. Tanesha’s vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or zip code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. Find her on Twitter at @PeeplesChoice85.