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Haunted By The Lost Chance To Save A Life


In this photo, friends and relatives comfort Laura Fatima Dos Santos as her son Jonathan's casket is ushered out of St Peter’s Parish Church in Dorchester, Thursday, June 18, 2015. Police say two fellow teens “trapped” 16-year-old Jonathan as he was riding his bike, and then shot him five times. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
In this photo, friends and relatives comfort Laura Fatima Dos Santos as her son Jonathan's casket is ushered out of St Peter’s Parish Church in Dorchester, Thursday, June 18, 2015. Police say two fellow teens “trapped” 16-year-old Jonathan as he was riding his bike, and then shot him five times. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Every tragedy involving youth is a stark reminder that we as a community missed an opportunity for a different possibility. Case in point: On the evening of June 10th, 16-year-old Jonathan Dos Santos was shot five times as he rode his bike near his Dorchester home. In addition to Dos Santos, two other young lives were compromised that night: the alleged perpetrators of his shooting, Dushawn Taylor-Gennis, 16 of Dorchester, and Raeshawn Moody, 14 of Mattapan, have pleaded not guilty to murder and gun charges.

We at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay are haunted by the fact that the families of each of these three teenagers reached out to us when the boys were younger. The families were looking for an adult mentor to help guide their sons through the challenges of growing from boys to young men. They wanted someone from the community who would value their boys, help develop their confidence, open a future filled with possibilities and encourage them during tough times. Having a big brother or big sister is not a guarantee of success in life, of course, but it is a promise that something different is possible. And we as a community missed not one but three chances for a different outcome. We missed the chance to curb this violence because we didn't have enough adult mentors to respond to the calls for help.

the families of each of these three teenagers reached out to us when the boys were younger ... We missed the chance to curb this violence because we didn't have enough adult mentors to respond to the calls for help.

Every year we receive nearly 1,500 calls from parents, relatives, guidance counselors, teachers, doctors, social service workers and community agencies alerting us to pre-teen youth who could benefit from an adult mentor. We answer each and every call with the hope that we can find that child a great match. While we’re proud to have connected over 700 children with an adult mentor this year alone, we are pained — and tormented — by the ones who are forced to wait. In Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan alone, there are over 400 children on our waiting list right now and over 800 in our region. Many of these children wait years for a match. Every day that goes by, the opportunity for a different possibility in their life fades while the chances of an irreversible tragedy grow.

We know when we can answer that call, young lives change for the better, forever. When a child has someone to confide in who believes in them, our research shows they make better choices that change the course of their future. Youth in our program have better attitudes toward school, get along better with family and peers and are more likely to avoid violence and substance abuse. When children feel good about themselves and have an adult friend cheering them on, they can positively impact their friends and families, their schools and their communities.

The family and supporters of Dushawn Taylor-Gennis, including his mother Genneane Gennis, seated second from right, react at the end of the session in Dorchester Municipal Court in Boston, Monday, June 15, 2015. Taylor-Gennis and Raeshawn Moody have been charged with gunning down Jonathan Dos Santos out riding his bike and have been held without bail. (Pat Greenhouse/AP)
The family and supporters of Dushawn Taylor-Gennis, including his mother Genneane Gennis, seated second from right, react at the end of the session in Dorchester Municipal Court in Boston, Monday, June 15, 2015. Taylor-Gennis and Raeshawn Moody have been charged with gunning down Jonathan Dos Santos out riding his bike and have been held without bail. (Pat Greenhouse/AP)

We as a community can’t afford to let a single opportunity for a different possibility slip away. We need more adults to help our youth grow up and realize their potential. And we need them now, as we head into the summer months when the propensity for violence only increases.

As State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry said after this month's shooting, “It is about the community stepping up. We have to do everything to prevent what happened [from happening again].”

So please join with us and Mayor Walsh’s effort to match 1,000 more children in Boston with a caring adult mentor. You will not only create a different possibility for a child — but for our community and yourself too.

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, click here.

Related:

Wendy Foster Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Wendy Foster is the president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay.

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