'To My Youth'

To My Youth

by Lionel B.

                In this day and time there are many challenges for our young people. There’s so much pressure to be liked, and to get likes, amongst your peers and on social media. Though, technology has changed the way in which the youth navigate through life from a pre-teen to young adulthood, the challenges remain the same as they did a century ago. We all wanted to be accepted, as well as understood as a child. While trying to figure out who we are and what is our place in their world we want to be understood. We all wanted to be talked to and not talked at. We wanted our feelings and opinions to be felt with the same seriousness as an adult.

                The youth will always make mistakes just as adults will make mistakes. But the thing is to allow the youth to make mistakes and learn those important lessons that stick with us all for our entire lives. There are many things I wish I could have learned about making the mistakes, and as the saying goes, “if I would’ve known then the things I know now.”

                I would have saved me and my love one a lot of headaches and heartache. So to my younger self, the youth in my life, and the young one in my community, listen up and take away from these words what you may, but know its 100% from the heart.

                To my younger self: I would say slow down and pace yourself. Don’t try to fit 20 years of living into your freshman year of high school. Take your time and focus on being a kid doing kid things. Enjoy the process of maturity and don’t attempt to speed up the process. There are no short cuts to being grown. Stay in school and surround yourself with people who really have your best interest in mind. And lastly, I would say to a younger me “listen to your Dad!!!”

                To the youth in my life, and no need to name names, you all know who you are. You do have control of your destiny! Despite what the news or any statistics say, you are capable of being successful at anything you’re willing to work hard at. You are not a label or stereotype given to you by those who are not willing to help you. Show you, or teach you to be the best you possible. Think big, dream big, and work hard to make those dreams happen. Always remember that the world is bigger than your block or your neighborhood. Aspire to travel and see the world, meet new people and learn about different cultures. Don’t be afraid to leave behind the people who are stopping you from reaching your full potential. Eliminate negative people from your life.  Be humble, driven, and dependable. Dedicate your time to things that are constructive. Get an education and master the things that you’re passionate about. Respect yourself and respect others and always speak up for yourself even when you’re not sure of the consequences. Most of all, remember you only have one life and it’s yours to live. I always tell my love ones to enjoy every day as if it is your last, but respect life as if you plan to live forever.

                To the youth in my community (which is the West side of Chicago). Don’t get discouraged by the violence drugs, and lack of opportunities. Refuse to become a number by creating your own opportunities. Use social media to find an outlet or safe place to cultivate your mind. Seek a mentor outside of your neighborhood or within. Explore the possibilities you think are impossible. And, when you find yourself doing good reach back and bring someone else along. Hope is a state of belief so as long as you have faith in yourself there is hope. Again the world is bigger than Chicago, explore it. Young men practice leadership and responsibility (and the first step of being a good leader is to listen well). Young women condition yourself to only tolerate those who build you up and and not attempt to break you down. Know that you are just as good as any boy and anyone else for record. That being said I’ll leave you all alone. Please take care.

Respectfully Lionel B.



Hi my name is Lionel and I’m currently being housed at Menard CC. I just wanted to drop you a few lines to say thank you and the one for believing in us and allowing us the opportunity to participate in the contest. Our voices have been suppressed and I think the best teachings come from experience. Hopefully this contest will show that inmates can be a positive influence if given the opportunity. Again thank  your entire staff at the one. Keep up the good work.


Lionel B.