The Ernest Becker Foundation
|Gang mediator fosters discussion between kids, parents and schools|
|Saturday, 01 May 1999 03:00|
Gang and youth violence mediator Jim Hernandez participated in several days of discussions with school children, teachers and parents in Anacortes, Washington over the week of March 15th. Susan Woolsey, who had worked hard with local school and youth group directors to assure that Jim's visit would come about, writes: "Jim is really talented! He tells wonderful existential-type stories that captivate 5th and 6th graders along with older children, and result in their begging for more! He is also a very good artist and has developed a whole series of cartoons and coloring pages to emphasize his Life Skills."
Susan spotted Jim Hernandez’ gifts and potential when he first addressed an EBF gathering in January 1997 on the very Beckerian title of "Kierkegaard Prevents Gang Violence," and later that year in the Love of Violence conference on "Gangs and Militias — Becker and Kierkegaard in the Hood."
Susan has been working ever since to bring Jim to her (adopted) home town of Anacortes, and finally pulled it off in March. He spent a whole week in the School District and talked to approximately 900 students — all of the 5th and 6th graders in the three elementary schools, all 7th and 8th graders in the Middle School, plus 62 students attending the Learning Opportunities Center and Fresh Start.
On Wednesday evening he participated in discussions with parents and members of the community and on Friday night talked at the Teen Center.Jim made a preliminary visit to Anacortes last Fall to speak at a noon Kiwanis meeting. He so impressed the School Superintendent that Susan was encouraged to seek community support for the March visit. Help came from the Kiwanis and Soroptimist clubs, the Anacortes Community Health Council,, the Skagit County Department of Human Services, Parks and Recreation and School District #103.
"WOW!" was Susan's summary of the week. All her hard work paid off. "I love it when a plan comes together!"
Susan says "Mr. Hernandez shared with the students some of his past life as a gang member (being careful not to glamorize) and how he came to see that he had to change his life. After hearing him, it is obvious that he now has become an excellent example of what is possible — from being mean, crude and rude to being nice, kind and polite. All the audiences were attentive, with small groups of youngsters staying after (when time permitted) to exchange personal thoughts and experiences. Afterwards, teachers and staffs assured us that his message very nicely dovetails with what is already being done in our schools. Having an ‘out-of-town expert’ is an excellent way to reinforce and encourage home town views."
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