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Originally published December 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 11, 2008 at 12:17 AM

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Jerry Large

Battling for future of our kids

Hazel Cameron's work is part of the solution to teen violence. And Lord knows we need solutions. We're in the midst of a plague of teens...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Hazel Cameron's work is part of the solution to teen violence.

And Lord knows we need solutions. We're in the midst of a plague of teens killing teens.

This plague doesn't exist in isolation. It's the most dramatic symptom of a broader problem, the derailed lives of so many black boys and young men.

Read the headlines about test scores and dropout rates and you'll know more trouble is coming.

We need intervention at every age level to steer young people toward better paths.

Cameron is executive director of the 4C Coalition, which pairs teenagers, most of them referred from the juvenile-court systems, with mentors.

Cameron is calling on adults, especially black men, to "get involved in the lives of the most vulnerable children ... the ones walking around with the doo-rags and their pants hanging down, and 'I don't care' attitudes. But they do care.

"They just want someone to show they care."

Cameron knows about troubled teens.

She worked at the Echo Glen juvenile-detention center for two years. Reading case files gave her a new understanding of what some of those kids had gone through — neglect, abuse, abandonment.

Then she spent 10 years with the state Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration, seeing a range of kids, from ones with deep problems to ones who just needed more direction. She helped start a mentoring program at JRA before helping to launch 4C in 1999.

The coalition was a response to an earlier outbreak of violence. The idea is to have the community take responsibility for rescuing children at risk, hence the name, Clergy, Community, Children Coalition.

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Cameron runs 4C from an office at Skyway United Methodist Church.

This year the coalition linked up with a new national mentoring movement lead by former Essence magazine editor Susan Taylor. Cameron was in New York last week to see Oprah pay tribute to Taylor and open her checkbook for the mentoring project.

As wonderful as that moment felt, mentors remain hard to come by.

Cameron has lots of female volunteers, but black men have been harder to attract, sometimes because they have to be persuaded that they have something to offer.

But just being there can be enough, and she says mentors get back more than they give.

Cameron gets something back, too. She said her work honors the first of her three children, Glenn Anderson.

He was a 17-year-old junior at Juanita School in 1998 when he was beaten at a party for another Eastside high school. He survived, but fell into a coma. His parents cared for him at home until he died in 2004.

She showed me a photograph of one of the young men shot last month, and said he reminded her of Glenn — handsome and full of promise.

"We're in an all-out battle to win the future of our children," Cameron said.

If you want to enlist, information is available at www.the4ccoalition.org/.

Jerry Large's column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Jerry Large
I try to write about the intersections of everyday life and big issues. I like to invite readers to think a little differently. The topics I choose represent the things in which I take an interest, and I try to deal with them the way most folks would, sometimes seriously, sometimes with a sense of humor. My column runs Mondays and Thursdays.
jlarge@seattletimes.com | 206-464-3346

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