Sunday, February 28, 2010

Making History

In the United States there are certain months of the year that are dedicated to the history of a certain group of people such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Asian-Pacific Americans.  Today is the last day of black history month.  Today I would like to present to teens and young people the story of Isaiah Mauzone.  His story is a story of success, triumph, perseverence and determination.  His story is a story like many teens who grow up in unfortunate circumstances, struggle with the challenges of life and growing up and often feel unsure and perplexed about their own life stories.  I have the privilege of working with and knowing some amazing teenagers who sometimes need to hear the story of a teenager who once walked the familiar path of hardship and uncertainty.  A teenager who once felt that not having an active father left a big void.  A teenager who once felt that no one would understand or could help him with his problems.  A teenager who once thought that college may not be for him.  Below is a biography and interview with Isaiah Mauzone, a young man who exemplifies that if one is willing to work hard and NEVER give up, life will reward you.

Isaiah Mauzone is a 19-year old, African American male who was born to a single mother and raised in the Sandtown/Winchester neigborhood of Baltimore City.  His neighborhood is one that is plagued with underemployed families, poverty, drug use, high crime and gang activity.  His neigborhood is also one that boasts a strong religious presence and a longstanding history of families who work hard and believe in education.  There was never enough money, never a break from worrying how the bills would get paid and how the family would survive.  As a middle school student, Isaiah was attacked and beaten badly by a group of middle school kids who had nothing better to do.  Despite his injuries, he refused to miss school.  Even though he spent most of his child/school years worrying about adult problems, he still managed to garner an interest in exercising, football, lacrosse, working, drawing and helping others.  Throughout most of his high school career he held a job, sometimes two, to contribute toward household expenses.  He rarely sees or speaks to his father who did not attend his high school graduation, his proudest moment.  In 2009, after much adversity, he graduated from high school and is now a student at the University of Maryland struggling with the decision of which passion to pursue:  architecture or physical therapy.

1.  How would you describe your high school experience?
Challenging because of standardized testing, class grades and the choice to secure employment to help out at home.  It was hard getting everything done.  I worried alot about money and making something of myself.  I wanted to be self sufficient.  I wanted to help out my mom who has given so much.

2.  What was the hardest part about high school?
Trying to keep up with the smart students.  I wanted to be good at everything I did. 

3.  What do you think teens go through in high school?
Sex, peer pressure, gangs, street activities and family issues.  It's hard for teens because most can't talk to their parents.  They need organized stuff to do to stay away from trouble.  I think it's also hard for teens when they think about growing up.  Most realize that they probably aren't properly prepared for the real world and that they will have to figure it out on their own.  That's scary for a young person because you hear about so much bad stuff happening.

4.  What would you say to teens who feel discouraged and want to drop out of high school?
Dropping out is not an option.  You have to want to become more successful, have more options and not limit yourself no matter what is happening in your life.

5.  How do you think growing up in a single-parent household affected you?
It made me want to work harder.  I've learned a lot.  I don't want my kids to go through what I experienced from my mother and father.  That was my motivation.

6.  How do you like college life?
I love college life.  I love furthering my education, meeting new people, the good environment, being responsible and learning to live independently.  There are people there who are willing to help.

7.  Any advice for teens who are feeling lost and overwhelmed by the stressors of teen life?
They need to analyze themselves, pay attention to what they do, what they say and who they invite into their social circles.  Don't be afraid to ask for help and don't get caught up in things that will cause trouble.

8.  A lot is made of role models for teens.  Who are your role models?
Jesus Christ, my mother, my brother and the staff of my high school.

9.  What do you think parents should understand about their teens?
They should really get to know them, talk to them, spend time with them and allow them to make mistakes.  Establishing and maintaining a bond with their child is very important to the child.  Parents should also understand that their teen children are watching more of what they do and paying less attention to what they say.

10.  If you could change anything about the life of a teenager, what would it be?
Access to good, dedicated mentors, community recreational and educational programs and physical activities.

Isaiah's story is important because he could have gone the other way.  The other way of giving up on himself, not reaching out to adults who cared about him and not believing that he possesses the gift of a mind able to take in all the information and knowledge he can grasp.  Isaiah did one simple thing:  he believed in himself.  To all teens:  believe in yourself and you too can make history.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Do You Think?

Hello and welcome back.  If this is your first time visiting my blog, I hope you enjoy the read and commit to return.  Bookmark, email and text to friends and other teens, conduct discussion groups.  For those of you that don't know, this is my space where I share my thoughts, advice and views about teens and young people, based upon my professional and personal experiences.  Typically, I select a topic impacting the lives of teens and young people.  This time I would like to try something different.  Since I began this blog, which I thoroughly enjoy, I have not provided an open opportunity for readers to respond and/or ask questions.  This entry is dedicated to you, my readers. 

I am very curious about what my readers think, particularly my teen and young readers.  I feel fortunate to have acquired readers from many parts of the United States as well as the world.  A few have responded directly to me, but most have not.  Now is your chance.  What do you think about this blog?  What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing teenagers today?  What are some questions you have about the behavior of teens?  What topics would you like to see addressed in this space?  If you are a teen, please share your thoughts here.  I ask that you keep your comments constructive and appropriate.  If you are an adult, either with or without a teen, please share your thoughts here.  I ask that you keep your comments constructive and appropriate.  Just click on comment and go for it.

Thanks for your time, comments and questions.  I truly hope you find this blog helpful and informative.  I know there are many places you could choose to spend your precious time and I feel privileged to have your attention.  It is my goal to provide a forum for teens and adults to dialogue, share and learn more about one another.  I also hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing.  To all the teens out there, I hope you are enjoying your teenage experience and preparing for your transition to adulthood.  Be well.