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Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Providing a better path for Baltimore youth

By meerna Jun12,2024

BALTIMORE, Md. – We often hear reports of children and teenagers committing carjackings, robberies, shootings and other crimes throughout Baltimore. Even though the city saw a historic decline in homicides and shootings last year, juvenile crime remains a persistent problem.

But perhaps we could do a few things by focusing on a child like 11-year-old Elijah and the circumstances that led him to benefit from Tuesday Night Youth Mentoring, where he receives math tutoring.

To understand how Elijah got here, you have to look at his older brother, who is also his adoptive father.

Wesley Hawkins runs the Nolita Project, named after the boys’ mother.

“When I realized I could be different, I looked at my community and said we can all be different.”

When it comes to grassroots activism, it doesn’t get any more grassroots: Hawkins started the organization by frequenting the bus stop, where he built relationships with children and parents. This was in 2012. Today he can name children who went from dealing drugs to earning a degree. Or kids who went from being arrested to finding a job.

“I know these kids can be great. I know they can do something different. Because if I come out of the conditions I grew up in, being homeless, not knowing how to read, write and do math, having drug-addicted parents, being cared for in the forest, being shot as a child and going through a lot of traumatic things, I realized – they can do it too.”

He didn’t just “make it.” A wall full of framed accolades in his office says it all.

“I can teach them that I was four grades behind, but I’m sitting here with a master’s degree. I can teach them that I was homeless as a child, but now I own many properties in my city.”

At The Nolita Project, Hawkins provides children with both people and a place: people who will help them when they are in trouble; people who will teach them the skills they need at work. And a place they can come to socialize, learn, or even just feel safe.

“The conditions in which people grow up in Baltimore largely determine why people react and react the way they do. You can’t live a low-quality lifestyle and not respond to it. “

Hawkins believes that most crime is caused by social problems and that solving them requires a community-wide effort.

“There are tons of grassroots organizations working every day doing hard work and saving lives,” he told WMAR-2 News. “And I feel like they need to be uplifted, other than everyone saying, ‘this elected person will save us. One man can’t do it. One mayor can’t do it. One governor cannot do this.”

He will leave policy changes to the government. But when it comes to changing individual lives, he believes he has the right approach.

“How do you get a young man who used to sell drugs on the corner to come to a community cleanup? How do we get this young man to stop selling drugs, get a job now, or graduate from high school? You have to get it here, and here first,” he said, pointing to his head, then to his heart.

By meerna

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