Joseph Sabino Mistick: Tough kids have great potential | TribLIVE.com
Joseph Sabino Mistick, Columnist

Joseph Sabino Mistick: Tough kids have great potential

Joseph Sabino Mistick
1394397_web1_1301676-02fa8b49bfb24ab5a17d0eede354b546
Migrant children play inside the Portland Exposition Building June 13 in Portland, Maine, where a basketball arena is being used as an emergency shelter for asylum seekers .

There may be worse things for a kid than being homeless, but there are not too many. Too often, homelessness can kill the ambition and hope of any kid. Every grownup knows that the starting point for a productive life is a safe place to rest, away from chaos, at least for a few hours a day.

Last week, in New York City, more than 100 homeless teenagers graduated from high school and many are headed for college. These children woke up every morning in homeless shelters, gathered themselves for the challenges of the day, gave their best in their classes and returned to the shelters at night.

Sometimes they were bullied at school, since kids with a little bit more are often cruel to those who have a whole lot less. They kept their heads down and tried to make it through the halls without attracting attention. And at the end of the school day, they found some nook, maybe even made a hiding place for themselves, where they could focus and do their homework and prepare.

As New York Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio said, “The strength and resilience of these young people is inspiring. And it is this same strength and resilience that has prepared them for anything and will propel them forward as they join our next generation of future leaders.”

At the special send-off for these recent graduates by the Department of Homeless Services, they were given laptops, duffle bags and a college starter kit.

It doesn’t take that much to inspire these kids to succeed. A slight crack of light on an otherwise dark horizon is a start. Add caring teachers and counselors, and even a family that might be homeless but not without love, and they can make it work.

It all makes you wonder how we arrived at a national policy that warehouses homeless kids, separating them from those who love them and denying them the basic essentials of life and even a glimpse of that crack of light.

In June, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would no longer pay for English classes and other education programs for the children who are being detained at our border. With Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s support, enough Democrats voted for an imperfect Republican Senate bill to provide some emergency funds, but we still have a very long way to go.

Our national policy is to see the kids we have detained at our border as a burden. Instead, we should see them as a resource, an opportunity, the stuff that good citizens and great Americans are made of. And we should invest in them, not waste their talent.

In “A Bronx Tale,” the 1993 Chazz Palminteri film about Italian-American kids struggling to find their way in a tough neighborhood in the 1960s, a young father tells his son, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”

That is still true. And just as the smart money will be on those homeless kids from New York, we should be betting on the kids we have detained at the border, too.

Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.