Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Thursday, April 11, 2013

C-Murder and the Kids They Affect

C-Murder had never been convicted of a felony. He stood in front of the judge in an orange jumpsuit. A few other men had the same orange jumpsuit on just feet away from C-Murder, sitting in the jury box. But standing in front of the judge, C-Murder was on his own. The judge asked him several questions about whether he understood that he could go to prison for the rest of his life if he pleaded guilty. But that's just what he did.

I spent most of my day with a bunch of kids from a St. Louis city high school visiting a courthouse, seeing a holding cell, watching as men in orange jumpsuits confessed their wrongdoings. Later in the day, the kids argued their own motions to dismiss in a made-up case about how a school district was or was not liable for a child failing to learn in school. The fictional plaintiff was a senior in a high school in a made-up state, and he couldn't read. I was so proud of my kids, really all the kids who had the courage to get up in a courtroom in front of a real judge and give a serious argument.
Unfortunately, the facts behind these kids' arguments, a fictional child who was effectively illiterate when he was 18, doesn't just happen in made-up states. In real states though, most of those kids don't hang around in schools until senior year.

But back to C-Murder: one of my high school kids said she knew who he was. When she was in pre-school or kindergarten, C-Murder was a 6th grader. At one time, this young man, who used a weapon to commit a burglary while his buddy beat the woman being burglarized, was an innocent 6th grade student. But that was long before he had to put on his orange jumpsuit.

I've had a kid who went down the path to self-destruction. When I first started as a volunteer in St. Louis, one of my brightest students, a kindergartner, was also one of the most "hyper." He liked to do flips and other gymnastic acts of heroism at inopportune times, but he could read, write, do math at levels above his classmates. One day that summer, a police officer came to the school. He pulled my kid out of class to talk to him. Both of this kid's parents were sent to prison because of drugs.

Just a few years later, this kid had been deemed a lost child by his school. There was no reaching him. His family life was reflected in his inability to control his own behavior. I don't know whatever happened to that child, and it may be the biggest regret of my life that I didn't do enough to even know how he turned out.

This girl who recognized C-Murder, she told me she would tell her mom about her seeing this young man plead guilty in court. She said her mom would probably say, "Damn."

That's the reality of some of these kids' lives. Some kids end up in prison, some kids end up unemployable, some kids go on to work, some kids go on to college. More need to do the latter. More need someone to care for them so they can understand that they are worth caring for themselves. More of these kids need someone in their lives to talk to, before they decide to agree with their friends to go to some lady's apartment and rob her.

That's in part why I'm involved with kids, and it's why I want to end up working with kids all over this country. Because sometimes a kid just needs someone to love him before he can love himself.

If you're going to be in St. Louis this summer, consider sharing your time with a kid. Visit our website at to find one way to get involved. I promise you won't regret it.

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