Tyshon Perry, a sophomore at KIPP DC College Preparatory high school in the District, was a dean’s list student and a math whiz. “One of those students you go into teaching for” is the way his faculty adviser, Mallory Loveridge, breaking into tears, described him.
He wanted to become the first black director of the FBI, according to his mother, Gina Nixon-Perry.
Instead, this bright, mature 16-year-old with a promising future was stabbed to death near the NoMa-Gallaudet U Metro station in Northeast D.C. on May 1. He had been trying to break up a fight, his family told Fox 5 news.
Today, and in the weeks ahead, thousands of young women and men in schools and colleges across the country will receive recognition and praise for their academic achievements. Tyshon will never get the chance to be among them.
He will never walk across the stage to the applause of family and friends, grasp the diploma placed in his hand and take his place among the proud 2020 graduates of KIPP DC College Preparatory school.
He is a loss to a family that cherished him as a son and brother. A loss to the school of 700 students where he excelled both in talent and popularity. A loss to the criminal-justice field in which he hoped to build a career. And a gigantic loss to a city that needs more young people like Tyshon.
Instead, more young people around Tyshon’s age are victims of violence.
This week, a teenage boy was shot in the stomach while he was across the street from his school, the IDEA Public Charter School on 45th Street NE. His wound reportedly was not life-threatening.
Of the 55 people, as of Friday, listed as homicide casualties in the District this year, at least seven, including Tyshon and Damoni, were juveniles. The other five were a baby, a toddler and three teenagers, including a 14-year-old boy shot in an attempted robbery.
And 2018 is off to an ominous start. Homicides are up 41 percent from this point in 2017.
You wouldn’t know it from hearing city leaders debate life in the District.
Our elected officials are busy weighing how to spend the $14.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year. They are getting themselves worked up over subsidizing downtown developers. Some are patting themselves on the back for successfully thwarting the mayor’s efforts to reduce the welfare rolls. And they and the mayor are pointing with pride at the rise in tourism ($$$).
Anything and everything is high on the agenda of our politicians, except the bloodletting on our streets — and the war on young lives.
Not every official is off in la-la land, however.
The office of D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) has assumed a leadership role in working with the city’s at-risk youths. Its programs include plans to fight truancy, as well as restorative-justice efforts focused on helping young people to avoid falling deeper into the criminal-justice system.
Working through the D.C. Department of Human Services, Racine has expanded use of the Alternatives to the Court Experience (ACE) to divert low-level juvenile offenders from the criminal-justice system and into mental-health treatment, mentoring and other support services. The ACE program has been “extraordinarily successful, with approximately 80 percent of program graduates having not been re-arrested,” according to Office of Attorney General spokesman Robert Marus.
Racine’s office is also conducting public education and awareness campaigns to fight the under-the-radar threat of human trafficking that victimizes young women in the city.
But let’s not kid ourselves: Youths such as Tyshon, who are trying to skirt trouble on our streets, are up against it. They can’t control the environment around them — gangs that serve as a substitute family for young people with guns and knives in their pockets.
There are also other goats eligible for -scaping: family dysfunction, economic and social deprivation, adjustment disorders, etc. It’s a broken record, admittedly played over and over in this column.
We have to stay at it, working with our young people, strengthening them where they are weak, making course corrections along the way — directing them toward the future of a cap and gown, instead of a casket.
Think of Tyshon and the others. What choice do we have?
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