The village came together

If the people that live on my floor of our condo are representative, then there is an 80% chance that you didn’t see a piece in the Metro section of yesterday’s Washington Post that is moving and instructive on many levels. It is about a young Washington DC woman, Monica Watts, graduating from college, the first in her family. The title of this Cup is the title of the article.

Here’s the link to it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/how-mentors-helped-one-former-a-girl-gang-leader-become-a-benedict-college-graduate/2014/12/14/02a26a64-8323-11e4-9f38-95a187e4c1f7_story.html?tid=hpModule_13097a0c-868e-11e2-9d71-f0feafdd1394&hpid=z11

There is nothing remarkable about a young woman graduating from college, of course. As the Rolling Stones said, “like a newborn baby, it just happens every day.”

No, not to minimize Monica’s accomplishment in the slightest, for she persevered in overcoming many obstacles including some jail time and the pull of the street gang environment from which she grew, the lesson for us is in the groups that saw promise in her and didn’t lose faith. First there was a mentor, Juahar Abraham and a group of which he was a part, Peacoholics. Now defunct, it was an anti-violence youth group, “gang interventionists.” The article mentions also a handful of Southeast (that’s southeast Washington DC, for the benefit of readers not familiar with DC) activists who were a critical support team. Dionne Bussey-Reeder, a director at the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, took Monica on as a protégé, providing a summer job and direct financial help with rent and other expenses. When Peacoholics folded and Far Southeast ran out of funds, two other community groups stepped up to the plate: the Anacostia Coordinating Council and the Black United Front.

The college that Monica attended is Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. It was founded in 1870 by Northern Baptists. Monica’s mentor, Juahar Abraham, has brought 32 students to Benedict since 2006. Here’s the link to their website.

http://www.benedict.edu/index.html

Monica hasn’t actually graduated though. Her graduation folder didn’t include her diploma, but a bill for over $8,000. Her diploma won’t be released until it is paid. Anyone with a few Christmas dollars to spare could probably not find a better place to put them than to help her retire that debt.

The Bishop Walker School, of which St. Alban’s is a supporter, is embarked on a similar venture, to be part of the village raising the boys attending BWS. This article about Monica’s mentors and support groups could be taken to heart as a glimpse of what might be expected to realize our aspirations for these boys, the heartbreaks and obstacles that there might to overcome, and also the tremendous joys in store.

“For young persons.
“God, our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP, 829)

Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 16-December-2014.

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2 Responses to The village came together

  1. Bruce Barrow says:

    Is Ms. Watts a candidate for support from WSA to reduce her $8000 obligation? If so, I would be willing to match WSA up to $250.

  2. Eileen says:

    Great of you to post this, Ron. Can you follow up with information where we can donate to help her out? I taught in DCPS for thirty-five years and her story is not singular — she’s not alone in that world of good kids, good community people who devote their lives trying to help push these students on. Things sometimes fall apart, then someone else comes along to carry the torch.

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