Change Begins with One Person
Last summer break from college, I interned for the “Weed and Seed” federal grant project in Bristol, Pennsylvania. “Weed and Seed” is a Department of Justice initiative aimed at revitalizing neighborhoods suffering from high rates of crime. In Bristol, three neighborhoods are currently eligible for such assistance: Bloomsdale-Fleetwing, Venice Ashby, and Green Lawn Park. At first glance, these neighborhoods lack the telltale signs of needy communities. I saw green grass, single family homes, and kids playing outside. I learned through my work with this program, however, that these communities need “Weed and Seed.” I specifically learned many children receive free lunches through government programs, some elementary school-aged kids join gangs, and kids as young as ten sell crack on the streets in broad daylight.
During the summer, my co-workers and I primarily focused on developing camps because we believe that making change begins with the children. My boss and I met with the local residents that ran such programs to discuss logistics such as budgetary restrictions and supplies necessary for such programs. These residents often voiced frustration when the children in their camps misbehaved. One resident described these children as behaving just like their parents. She did not think that we could make change, and believed that Bristol would always stay the same. I strongly disagree.
I believe that change begins with one child. If you touch one life, you make a difference. While many of the kids I saw on the streets would serve time, I knew that we, my co-workers, the residents, and I, could at least help one find the straight path. We knew that we had already touched one young man. A gang member shot his brother, paralyzing him. We provided him with a job at one of the camps and other services. While we could not heal all of the wounds, we knew that we could still make a difference. We could not help his brother walk again or stop the tears or change the past, but we could at least provide him with a role in the community and our emotional support. This young man just began his first year of college. He proves that people can rise above the violence. Change can happen.
Change for me does not stop with “Weed and Seed,” however. I hope to further my work as a high school English teacher in a socio-economically disadvantaged area. I think that Tupac describes my philosophy well in his song, “Changes,” released posthumously in 1998. He raps, “We gotta make a change…/ It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes./ Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live/ and let’s change the way we treat each other./ You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do/ what we gotta do, to survive.” We can all make change. College will replace drug-dealing for at least one person. Just wait and see.
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