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Memo to the Mayor: Ideas that could improve life for Dorchester youth

Editor’s Note: Aedan Harasymiw, age 12, lives in Dorchester and is a student at the Tremont School. His essay, printed here in its entirety, won first prize in this year’s Dorchester Day Parade Essay Contest, sponsored by the Dorchester Reporter. Aedan read his essay at last Thursday’s Dorchester Day Kickoff Meatloaf Dinner at First Parish Church.

Mayor Walsh should do three things to make Dorchester a better place for young people to live, learn, and play.

The first thing that Mayor Walsh can do is try to prevent youth violence, and to help him, I want to give him some advice. He can add some more exciting community or after school programs so teens can feel like they are a part of something, because one cause of youth violence is teens that do not feel like that they are a part of the world anymore.

For example, my experience at the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester has been great because they provide fun activities for youths to do and make more friends. Also, the mayor could offer more jobs to youths, because jobs give youths something to do so they will not be out on the street, and that could prevent youth violence. A third piece of action that the mayor can do is offer school counseling or mentoring for students, because if youths get to talk to an adult about things that are bothering them, it could decrease violence by helping them focus more on education than what is bothering them.

Another thing that Mayor Walsh could do is push back the Boston Public Schools starting time for teens. This is important to teens because studies have shown that earlier in the morning, teens are more stressed, and they are not able to focus on work. On the website smithsonianmag.com, an article about why school should start later states: “Because teenagers need eight to nine hours of sleep, waking up at 6 a.m. can lead to a pattern of sleep deprivation. And that puts them at higher risk of a whole range of potential problems, from depression to automobile accidents.” The article also said that even starting school a half hour later improves teens’ learning. Dr. Judith Owens says, “Beginning in puberty, adolescents are programmed to fall asleep later.” As a teenager in puberty, I find that correct because teenagers like to stay up later.

Finally, Mayor Walsh should make more schools inclusive. I know that there are schools that are called inclusive, but those schools are not really good at being inclusive, especially the middle and high schools.

A school that other schools should model after is the Dr. William W. Henderson Inclusion Elementary School, originally named the O’Hearn School but re-named after the former principal who was good at being inclusive. The Henderson school is an elementary school, but next year it is going to let students from kindergarten to twelfth grade apply. I bring this up because there need to be more schools in Dorchester that allow all different types of kids.

There should also be more inclusive schools because students should learn at a young age that there are kids with different learning styles, so when the students get to middle school or high school, they do not make fun of another student for having a different learning style.  If Boston Public middle schools were more inclusive, I could attend one in my neighborhood this year.

In conclusion, Mayor Walsh should try to prevent youth violence, push back starting times for teenagers in Boston Public Schools, and make Boston Public Schools more inclusive. These strategies would make Dorchester even better because it would be a better and safer place to live, learn, and play, and it would be good for the children of the future to have a great life in Dorchester.