In the 1970s, when my parents, John and Earline McIntyre, returned to Washington after a brief military term, their goal was simple: begin a new life and find a safe place for their family. Eventually, they saved enough money to buy a quaint three-bedroom house at 15th and Gales streets NE.
At the time, the neighborhood was relatively safe and quiet, save for the wandering drunks and heroin addicts. My parents figured that they could enjoy the rest of their lives in this community. They both found jobs at St. Elizabeths Hospital and settled in in what they believed was a blossoming neighborhood safe for rearing children.
Before long, however, the neighborhood turned dangerous. It became the kind of place where good kids can too easily go bad.
But it doesn't have to be that way. My parents successfully raised two girls and four boys and have not had a single child involved in violence. That might not mean much in some neighborhoods, but my parents had to beat overwhelming odds. Without a proper upbringing, the District's children are doomed to fall victim to the treacherous streets.
By the early 1980s, my neighborhood was no longer a friendly place to live. There were gangs that stood ready to bludgeon any male 9 years old and older. Fortunately, my brothers and I were too young to be targeted. Although we weren't attacked, we kept up with the street gossip about which gang did what and to whom. And we lived in constant fear of gang violence, carjackings and muggings.
By the mid-'80s, the city was riddled with violence. Each night, there were shootings over sneakers, radios, coats or anything else of value.
The problem now was that my brother John and I were 9 and 11 years old, respectively. Far too many young men in our age group were being murdered in the city's grim streets.
My parents recognized this and kept a close watch on our friends. To ensure that we were not involved with drugs, we weren't allowed to lock the doors to our rooms. My parents wanted to know everything we did. They would make sure that we did not fall prey to the streets.
As we got older, drug dealers constantly approached my brother and me to recruit us to work for them, offering the fast life of money, clothes and cars. The fancy clothes and piles of money were alluring, but the thought of a reprimand from my dad kept me in check. Each time dealers approached us, we respectfully declined. We had to be extremely careful not to offend them, lest we be targeted as their next victims.
Promises of new sneakers, gold chains and large wads of cash did not sway us. Despite the temptations, my mom's advice and my dad's discipline were enough to help us steer clear of the addictive call of the streets.
My sisters had different challenges, the most prominent being pregnancy. Although my parents did everything they could to protect us -- keeping us in church and taking us on vacations to get away from the ills of the city -- my sister Valencia chose to do things her way.
She soon learned that her way was the wrong way. She became pregnant at 18. She dropped out of college and began pursuing the fast life.
Many of her friends have died; she can name only a few who are still alive. Luckily, she was never physically hurt. The heartbreak of seeing so many of her friends die prompted her to finally take my parents' advice, quit dating drug dealers and get an education.
My parents set educational goals for us and strictly enforced them. As a result, my siblings have not only made it out of D.C. alive, they also are role models. We aren't rich or famous, but we are largely successful as citizens because of the dedication and discipline provided by our parents.
We grew up in the District at the height of the street violence, and my parents stopped at nothing to ensure that we would not bow to the pressures of the city's drug life. This feat makes them truly successful and cannot be measured in any amount of riches.
Kevin McIntyre, a resident of Northeast Washington, is in his second year at the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H. He is married and has a 4-year-old son.