I am fortunate to be in the presence of teens every week, most of which are "labeled" at-risk. The reason for the quote-unquote label is they come from improvised communities; parents in the home but absent in love, attention and direction, incarceration, drug and alcohol abuse physical/child sexual abuse, domestic violence...and so on.
Having been serving in Eastlake Juvenile Hall the past 10 years, delivering life-skills program sessions I have only one comment to make: THERE IS BRILLANCE BEHIND LOCKED DOORS!!!
I see "At-promise" teens
a promising Culinary student.
a cosmetology female student
a youth pastor
a sound engineering student
a FIDM graduate
a Job Core applicant
a High School Diploma or GED candidate
a young entrepeneur
and even more possibilities.
Every week I remind them that "They came out of their mother's womb a bouncing baby boy or a bouncing baby girl." They didn't raise their hand at birth and decide to be a gangster, booster, finesser, prostitute, murderer, drug user, drug seller, rapist, and so on. But--life's cruelty got in their way. If I went through some of the 'stuff' they have, I'd be behind locked doors TOO.
At-promise is how I choose to SEE THEM. Zig Ziglar is noted for saying, "The way we see them is the way we treat them and the way we treat them is often the way they become."
The life-skills sessions have a Zero tolerance for profanity. They do their very best not to curse but when they 'slip up' they are quick to apologize and reel it back in. Why? They want to please anybody that will hold them to a higher standard.
Youth Matter. They matter to GOD. Jesus carried His own cross, allowed himself to be nailed to it (though He was God in the flesh) and hung his head and died. Why? For God so loved the world, that "whosoever" (the pimp or the preacher, the thief or the teacher, the robber or the rich man, etc.) believes on His son will not die but HAVE everlasting life.
The next time you see a teen who acts out in anger don't ask them 'what's wrong', instead ask them 'what HAPPENED'? Then ask, "wanna talk about it?" You might be surprised at the promise you find within. Just sayin'.