By Aminisha Black
Male Role Models Come in
In the search for nurturing role models, it’s important to move outside the dominant culture’s model of the cookie cutter syndrome, merely duplicating one model. Remember to look beneath the external trappings for signs that the person walks the talk and their practice demonstrates integrity, values young folk need to be productive, responsible citizens.
George Ragsdale, father of Alexa, 13 and George, 10, is a professional trumpet player. He also coaches the X-Men baseball team in the 78th Precinct Council League. George’s interest in sports started when his children wanted to play. He became a coach because in his opinion, the coaches – also parents, weren’t always that knowledgeable about the game. Also concerned with prejudices -not necessarily based on color but parents favoring their own child, he decided to coach. After his daughter stopped playing, he has focused on developing his son’s skills – signing him up with a traveling league in addition to playing with the X-Men. George volunteers in that league and works out every single day of the week at a batting cage with his son. When asked if he managed to avoid favoritism, he replied with pride, “I can show you plaques I received two years in a row from parents. Most coaches don’t get plaques from parents.”
The individuals George credits with being major influences in his life were his high school band instructor and his trumpet teacher. ” I was impressed by the way they carried themselves, their work ethics – they demanded respect from those around them ” George is obviously an achiever and when he spots an under achiever, “I look for his strong points and let him play positions that use those skills. ” As an end-of-game ritual, the entire team run the bases three or four times together and all chant X-Men! at home base. This ritual serves as both a wind-down and a unity/power play according to George.
Saying that youngsters need someone to nurture and inspire them, he requires his players to bring in their report cards. George, involved in every activity of his children, takes his band (The Disciples – a band he founded 10 years ago) to play for Alexa’s dance class rehearsals now that she’s left the sports arena. Kudos to George for being an involved father and for including other youth in the process.
Speaking of other youth – older, responsible youth make excellent role models. Makini, a single mom with two sons DJ, 9, and Kamani, 5, hired Jesse, the 17 year-old son of a colleague, to baby sit with the boys. His assignment began with DJ who obviously enjoyed hanging out with a teenager who he described as being “cool”. I was pleased to see that “cool” didn’t mean a do rag or drooping pants. After DJ went away to camp, Kamani inherited Jesse. He could hardly wait since his big brother had given Jesse big props. Living up to his reputation, he was a big hit with the five year-old as well.
Jesse, a rising senior at The Lab School, has a passion for ice hockey, a sport he’s played since he was eight years old. Although this was his first job as a baby sitter, he handled it like a pro, asking the boys for their input on activities and most importantly keeping them moving at a rate that didn’t allow for boredom.
Jesse said a male cousin, a student and a rapper who was shot and killed at the age of 23, had influenced him. He said his cousin always worked hard and was very modest about his accomplishments. He enjoyed the job, remembering the things he did at the age of five and nine while the biggest challenge was keeping up with them and finding a balance between firm and fun.
His message to adults about youth would be “Try to understand how kids are seeing things, their point of view. The world is rapidly changing and being a kid today is different than even 10 years ago”. When asked what we wanted to get from baby-sitting, he said, “A better understanding of kids and baby sitting in general”. He hopes that he gives them positive aspirations.
It’s a known fact that youth listen to other youth more readily than to adults. Finding positive youth who can model responsible behavior is a win-win situation for the youngsters and the teenagers as well. The village still exists. Long live the village!
By Aminisha Black