Robinson Gardens Youth Group
Life lessons from one who’s been around
At age 60, Charles Craig Jr. has seen it all.
Well, at least a lot.
And luckily for the teens at Springfield Housing Authority’s Robinson Gardens Youth Group, Craig is ready and willing to share his secrets to success, and his tips on living a good life. The founder and director of YOUMAG/Young Men’s Action Group paid a visit recently to the family development in the Pine Point section of the city.
Among his advice:
- Treat others with respect, and demand the same of others.
- Think hard before you talk or act, especially in anger.
- Be responsible, always.
- Watch who’s talking to you, and what he or she is saying.
- Recognize and interrupt the negative cycles in your life.
- Be a good support system.
- Identify ‘fake friends’ and ‘time stealers,’ and avoid them.
- Walk away from foolishness.
Craig has honed his message after five years mentoring Springfield youth at several public schools, via his YOUMAG. His target group is typically young men, in middle or high school, but his visit at Robinson Gardens had a mostly female audience, and he easily found his groove.
“Stay away from what you know is bad for you,” Craig said. “If I’m in the middle of something that’s not right, I stop, walk away, rethink. Take time to think about what you’re doing, every day.”
He also urged teens to stick with their school work, even play-acting out a conference between a school principal and a parent and daughter. Though that skit evoked much laughter, there was also a lesson – stay away from trouble and problems.
Teens in attendance said the message was good as well as memorable.
“He really makes you think about the choices you make, even if you think they’re small ones. I’m going to try to do my homework every night,” said 14-year-old Jaleiry Reveron, an eighth grader at Kennedy Middle School.
Adrian Perez, 13, called Craig “a great guy.” And how does she know that?
“You can just tell he cares about people by listening to him talk. He’s helping a lot of people. He makes you think about how you can be a better person,” said the seventh grader at Kennedy.
Craig came to Robinson Gardens via the Youth Group and its leader, SHA Youth Engagement Coordinator Jimmie Mitchell, a retired high school counselor who works weekday afternoons with about two dozen teens from the development.
Mitchell’s overall goal is to guide the youth towards good choices, successful completion of school, and employment. In other words, live productive and happy lives.
His work includes weekly guest visitors who have been successful in Springfield. Many of them, like Craig, are giving back to help make the world a better place for today’s youth.
“These kids are so much better off when they can see and hear from someone who’s been around and who knows how to do things right,” said Mitchell. “I am always looking to expose them to people who have proven successful, and who want to help out others. Mr. Craig was great.”
Katherine Landron, 17, said she found Craig “very interesting. He really made me think about the choices I make every day.
“I think he made an impact,” added Landron, a junior at Springfield Conservatory for the Arts. “He gave some really good examples of how to act, what to do, and what not to do.”
Even older Youth Group members like Jenashia Scott said the session with Craig made an impact.
“I think we all got some good things out of this,” said Scott, a student at Springfield Technical Community College.
“He made us think about the way we treat people, and the way they treat us. He made us realize how to know a good guy from a bad one,” she added.
Craig has brought his mentorship program to city schools including Brookings, Chestnut, Kiley, Renaissance, and Rebecca Johnson.
In addition to guiding youth to make good choices for today, he urges them to think about tomorrow.
“Give back. Help someone else out. Be a support system. I’d love to see you doing what I’m doing down the road,” Craig said.
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