Home News Local news Panelists Say 'Yes' to 'Are We Failing Our Youth?'

Panelists Say 'Yes' to 'Are We Failing Our Youth?'


Nov. 16, 2005 – Harold Willocks, V.I. chief public defender, answered the question 'Are we failing our youth?', posed by Generation Now at the University of the Virgin Islands Student Activities Center Wednesday, with a resounding 'Yes.'
He then dissected the V.I. community and outlined where he thought the failure was.
"I am going to attack everyone tonight," he said.
Willocks was one of four panelists in the program aired live on WTJX-TV Channel 12. The other panelists were Terrence Joseph, St. Croix superintendent for the Department of Education; May Adams Cornwall, Parent Teacher Association president at the St. Croix Educational Complex; and Reginald Perry, pastor of Victorious Believers Church.
Although none of the other panelists indicted V.I. society as strongly as Willocks, all agreed that there is a failure to give many of the territory's youth the resources and the guidance they need to become productive, responsible citizens.
Willocks said that the community and families were failing to give youth the guidance they needed. He cited the prevalence of rap music that he said promoted disrespect for women and for authority.
As far as schools, he said, "If there is no structure at home, there has to be structure in the schools."
He said most churches were failing because they "used old-fashioned methods" to try and communicate with the young.
He said the legal system failed because it usually offered incarceration instead of intervention or prevention programs. He said that some minimum sentences which "take discretion out of the judge's hands, are just plain crazy." He said severe sentences have been shown not to be a deterrent to crime. He added that it was "cheaper to send a youth to college than it was to send him or her to jail."
Cornwall said parents had to take responsibility for their children. She advocated parents taking a bigger part in their children's life and especially participating in school activities. She said parents should consider alternatives if their job keeps them out of their children's lives "during those very important years."
Joseph said that home played an essential part in a child's life. He said, "We get children entering first grade who are already damaged."
He said parents had to be good examples. "You can't tell a child not to drink rum and then come stumbling home on Friday afternoon," he said.
Perry admitted that the church needs to do better — that the message from the church did not have to change — but its manner of delivery had to be more in tune with modern times.
All the panelists mentioned mentoring programs and social organizations that could help those in trouble. They said they were offered both by schools and churches, but many Virgin Islanders do not know they could be getting help.
Cornwall suggested that a parent accountability act might be helpful. Joseph disagreed, saying that the government could not legislate good parenting.
They discussed the V.I. law that said employers should give two hours off a month to parents to attend school functions. Cornwall said that was not enough, that parents had to get involved after work, too. Joseph said the law was poorly utilized.
Cornwall proposed that when a child was having trouble at school the answer might not be suspending the student but sending the parent to a class on parenting skills.
Willocks said that there were many organizations out there that wanted to help troubled youths, but the effort was not cohesive. He recommended that Generation Now take on the task of bringing those organizations together.
All the panelists agreed the theory "It takes a village to raise a child" was a good foundation. Joseph said, "It works. It really works."
Albert Bryan Jr., vice president of Generation Now, moderated the program. He said this was just the beginning of Generation Now's effort to bring meaningful dialogue to problems in the Virgin Islands.
For more information about Generation Now, contact Adrienne L. Williams, the organization's president, at 643-1710 or 771-2830.

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