Letter - We must save our at-risk youth

To the editor:

Aimee Jones, thank you for writing the sensitive article that you did about Lavonda Franklin. I am so sad to read this news, and it seems that these youths and young people are getting into trouble more and more. I know these are good kids and I just don't want to see them being jailed for 5, 10 and more years, and I certainly don't want to hear of them being killed.

I'm sure Lavonda didn't intend to drag the police officer, but was scared and simply reacted. Of course, no one can find fault with the officer as his life was at stake. What influence is doing this to our children? It's more than drugs or alcohol. Some influence is taking these wonderful children and placing them in a mindset that follows a path never intended for them, and one in which they never thought they'd follow. It seems to be happening to more of our African American youth than any other group, but certainly isn't constrained to that group. Somehow, we must find this influence and stop it. Our youth are far too important.

I've coached so many children in baseball, many of whom are now in high school, and I don't believe I could bear hearing that one of them ended up in prison, or killed as Lavonda was killed. He attended Salem with my nieces, who were cheerleaders and members of the Salem Dance Team and Salem Band, and I recall meeting Lavonda one evening after a basketball game. My memory of him is one of a very warm, friendly, respectful and confident young man. He was an athlete, not one to use drugs, or at least that was my impression.

Whatever it is to which we're losing these fine young men and young ladies, we have a desperate need to find it, then find a way to stop this destruction. I so much hope that I and others instilled something in the children I coached, my children, and all my children's friends so that they will resist the temptations that lead to such destructive lives. I don't think I could bear learning that any of those precious children grew up to face such trouble, or death, because they strayed into living a life that put them at such risk.

Thank you again for your sensitivity.

Earl Usry