“How have we failed you?”
That might sound like a strange question to ask boys caught up in the juvenile justice system. Wouldn’t “How can we fix your problem?” be more appropriate?
Not to Blaine Campbell, a 2017 graduate of the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies program who applies his Georgetown education to his work as a facilitator for at-risk youth.
Certainly, fixing the “problem” is important—though Campbell would say, “How can you fix our problem?”—but he also wants the Washington, D.C., youth he mentors to know that the issues they are facing did not arise spontaneously, but have roots in poverty, prejudice, and society’s indifference.
As a volunteer with the ASK program (After School Kids) at Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice Research, Campbell was given the Suzanne Tarlov Spirit Award. Later, at commencement, he received the Spirit of Georgetown award.
When talking with teenagers, Campbell asks how they think their environment influences their lives. One 16-year-old said the abundance of littering helps perpetuate violence in his community. Adults, and the policies of adults, had repeatedly exposed their communities to risk, devaluing them and diminishing those who lived there. The trash was merely an outward manifestation of what people were feeling inside.
To counter this dynamic, the teen provided the community with a tangible representation of value by organizing a bimonthly effort to clean up the litter.
“You’d be surprised by the intellect and the correlations the youth make when they feel they are listened to, understood, and placed in a position of empowerment,” said Campbell.