A few weeks ago I spoke to the Ujima class at Pasadena City College. The professor is Gabrielle Pina, the author of the play, "Letters From Zora." Because I think that when we speak to young people we need to leave them with something meaningful, I prepared an exercise. The exercise involved requesting them to write in a little booklet while or after I talk. I handed the booklet out at the beginning of the class, and picked it up at the end of the class. On the booklet cover is the picture of a hobo/bum with the words, "If You're so smart why aren't you rich." I've spoken of this topic many times before in this column. You may remember, the picture idea comes from a drawing that my mother gave me after I passed the bar exam. The original was drawn in 1929, the year of the great depression. I prize the picture for a lot of reasons, not the least of which, it keeps me humble and is a constant reminder of the wisdom my mother and my father taught me.
After reviewing the writings in the booklets by the students, I was reminded of how smart our children can be. It also demonstrated to me that what you put into young people is what comes back at you. It's kind of like the old computer wisdom that says "Garbage in Garbage out." In short, if you expose your children to garbage on a daily basis, you can almost be guaranteed the chances of you having a child that grows up as an example of a wasted life, just taking up space, instead of achieving their full potential.
On one side of the booklet I asked the students to write five reasons they believe they are not rich. On the other side I asked them to write what they needed to become rich. I told them it was not necessarily all about money, but rich with a fulfilling life. Here's a sampling of what I got:
On the "Why I AM Not Rich?" side, they wrote:
(1) Not finished my education;
(2) I have not done all of the things I need to do to reach my goals;
(3) I have not taken my goals seriously;
(4) I'm not rich because I don't know myself yet;
(5) I didn't have self motivation until last semester;
(6) I have some obstacles to overcome - mental, physical, and emotional;
(7) I need to surround myself with people who aspire to be something in life;
(8) I need to discipline myself;
(9) I need to practice dedication and be more confident while practicing my craft;
(10) I am too eager to become rich, I need patience and guidance;
(11) I am not rich because I spend way too much money on gas and junk;
(12) I do not save the money I earn;
(13) I give money I don't have to people who are ungrateful;
(14) My wants outweigh my needs, therefore, my money runs out;
(15) I am not rich because I have not been exposed to the link that is going to bless me and my vision;
(16) I don't take my life seriously;
(17) I spend too much time watching television.
On the "What I need to Become Rich" side of the booklet, a sampling of what the students wrote is:
(1) Get/finish my education;
(2) Surround myself with inspiring and influential friends, acquaintances;
(3) Make well thought out decisions;
(4) Gain experience;
(5) Create or take advantage of opportunities available to me;
(6) Start paying attention in class and pass my classes;
(7) More than one student quoted a theme I presented in the class that says "Do what you've got to do till you can do what you want to do;"
(8) Need support of family and friends;
(9) Get married and establish some roots.
I share these things because we need to know what young people are thinking in order to guide them. Following that experience I was asked to speak to a group of men at church about how to get our young men on the right track in life. In preparing for that presentation I came across a program that we at the Journal did some years ago which was a Youth Marketplace. We simply set up booths for rent on our parking lot for young people to practice entrepreneurship, develop a product base, market their business and sell their wares. I proposed another marketplace for the upcoming Holiday season. My wife reminded me that we discontinued the Marketplace because the parents did not support their children. This time I asked the men of the churches to work with the young men to develop the product, create a marketing plan, and begin to build toward opening their business.
The Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." Ask yourself, "If I don't train my child, which gang member will?" I offer these testimonials from participants in the 2002 Youth Marketplace event from Shannon Malone and Lance Arnold:
"I want a chance to own my own money. I like not having to ask my parents to pay for everything. I also like sometimes when we eat out. I leave the tip. I have even paid for lunch. Working makes me feel confident and independent. When I grow up, I would like to be an architect and build a fancy Senior Citizen's home on Raymond Street in Pasadena. It will have special features that would make life easier for seniors. It will be affordable for all seniors whether they are rich or poor." - Lance Arnold, 4th grade 11/28/02
"Ten years ago, Mr. Hopkins held an Entrepreneurship day for the children in the Pasadena community. He allowed children to come up with business ideas and then gave them space on his property to experience opening up their own businesses. My two daughters, who were then 4 and 6 years old, decided to open a gourmet brownie business. They were so excited. Many of our friends came to buy brownies. My daughters earned over $30. My oldest daughter, who is now 16 years old, participates in an entrepreneur program at the University of Southern California. She was able to trace her experience in business back to the Youth Entrepreneurship Day. - Shannon Malone, 4/13/12 Principal, Pasadena Unified School District
Call me for questions or more information on setting up youth businesses (626-798-3972).