The Road Not Taken

Many young lives are at crossroads, and the road often taken by at-risk youth leads to crime and violence, guns and gangs, drugs and death.  Yet some choose the road less traveled.  Stacy chose to practice yoga at Street Academy, an alternative high school in Oakland. He chose to join our Mindful Mentoring and Peer Leadership program. He chose to become a member of the steering committee of our Youth Advisory Council. He chose the topic of his Senior Thesis: How Yoga Can Prevent Youth Violence. And on graduation day this past June, he received the award for Outstanding Youth Leadership.

According to the latest Alameda County Community Health Status Assessment, the leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds is homicide. Youth killing youth is the chilling reality of many of our inner cities. Dropping out of high school and juvenile delinquency are inextricably linked, creating the trillion-dollar School-to-Prison pipeline, with a million youth entering it every year. This is a colossal waste of human potential and squandering of precious financial resources.

We can systematically enable youth to choose the road less traveled, on the anvil of transformative practice. Systematically developing the reflective capacities of self-awareness and emotion regulation, youth can learn self-mastery and to choose what is good for themselves and the world in the long term, turning away from what may appear to be pleasant in the short term. Right choices make all the difference.