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How to end the violence: Quennel McCaleb | News, Sports, Jobs | #schoolsaftey

To help facilitate answers and solutions to the problem of violence permeating through Fort Dodge, The Messenger is kickstarting the conversations with those in the community who want to be part of the solution. This week, Messenger news reporter Kelby Wingert sat down to talk with Quennel McCaleb, of Fort Dodge.

McCaleb has worked with at-risk youth in the Fort Dodge community for years. Currently, he works for the State of Iowa helping kids. Previously, he was a liaison in the Fort Dodge public schools for the juvenile court services.

“I checked in with all the kids that were on probation and getting back from treatment or on the way to treatment, to see what they needed when they got back,” he said. “Making sure their grades are up to par, making sure they’re fitting right back in and going on with their life.”

McCaleb, who also services as a councilman on the Fort Dodge City Council and is a member of the NextGen community group, says his purpose in life is to help kids lead better, successful lives.

What brought you into the field of working with at-risk and troubled youth?

Having the background of being that kid that’s slipping through the cracks and that kid that needed help. Seeing a lot of these kids walk around the schools with the same looks — walking around head down, moping, don’t have that self esteem, don’t have that support system at home. And their behaviors weren’t them acting out, their behaviors was their cry for help. Noting those behaviors and being able to pull them to the side later, when they’re calm and asking them what’s going on, building that relationship with them, then you get a lot further and a lot more answers because then they can see you relating, you paid attention. That was a huge thing for me. That’s my driving thing, that’s my point. Why I do what I do every single day? Because I was that kid.

I never made into the system. I’ve never had to juvenile court officer. I was just doing enough to get by, enough to not get caught but enough behaviors where it was a cry out for help. I needed a safe person and I found a few of those safe people that saved me and kept me from being a troubled youth.

That is why I wake up every day — is to bless these kids with the opportunity that someone in their corner is going advocate for them.

How do you define ‘at-risk’?

So we talk about ‘at-risk’ kids, and you think label is ‘Black kids.’ There’s some kids that I’ve worked with, I mean, they’re coming from with $300,000 home income. Mom is drinking alcohol every night. His behaviors are at school. He is disruptive in many classes, getting by barely and causing more issues in the hallways and having fights, but he’s never labeled ‘at-risk’ because of his name. That’s not fair. I don’t think the at ‘risk-label’ fits kids. I think it’s it should be ‘kids needing help.’ Because again, majority of them kids are just looking for someone to listen to them. Their behaviors are outcries for help.

I’ve seen kids change overnight. They’re out for sports, they’ve got the whole family in the crowd supporting them, and they run into the wrong crowd and they’re dropping out of school, they are no longer playing sports, they are fighting, they are being disrespectful in the community in a matter of 24 hours. And you try to reel them back in and it gets to a point where you just have to let them fall to the ground and be that person to help them up. Like it’s no different from from an addict. That that addict is not going to change until they’re ready to change and I believe some of these kids, they’re not going to change until they’re ready to change. And that means us filling them with positivity, building them up every chance we get — positive phone calls, positive referrals, positive visits, positive conferences. Because they go home, they’re walking in to hell.

What specific resources do you think our community needs more of to help kids?

Mental health. I’ll say it again: mental health. After working with families and kids, some of the things that some of these kids go through at home or throughout life or throughout school is traumatizing. Trauma is pain, pain results into bad things because they’re going to make people feel the way they feel inside. That trauma is not being addressed or or even talked about, it’s getting getting worse by the day. So either they’re going to hurt someone or they’re going to hurt themselves. And I think you’re starting to see if you take away mental health, these are the problems you’re going to have.

I’ve seen a lot of kids now that I work with advocate for mental health because they know mental health that saved them from doing some bad things.

More mental health resources and more good people. Just more good people stepping up to the plate. That’s what’s needed. Just wake up and be a good human being and that’s what kids need — people that want what’s best for them, everyday no matter what.

Wake up and be better than you were yesterday. You make the whole world a better place. Make a 1% improvement. We have 25,000 people in his town, that’s 25,000% of Fort Dodge being greater. If we all just gave 1% a day, how much would we get accomplished?

How can the general public be convinced that the violence is a problem that can actually be solved?

We’ve talked about it before, but some of these kids are just kids that are crying out for help. Their home life isn’t the best. Their economic, their social status, where they’re at isn’t the best. They don’t have the best shoes, the best clothes, the best iPhone, or yet even have a phone. So they feel less of a person so then they’ll act out. Some of their behaviors come from the night before at home. They’re just crying out for help. So we as a community can put everything aside and start looking at these kids like they’re one of ours. I truly think we can change the narrative of what’s going on because we’re helping not just a few kids that are labeled ‘at-risk,’ we’re helping all the kids no matter what.

What can the average citizen do to help address this problem?

Don’t ignore people. Say hi. Love thy neighbor. It may not be your actual neighbor. A lady asked me at one of these last meetings how can she help some of these kids at the courts that are playing? I said go to Walmart and get a 24-pack of water. Have some cold and walk them over there and introduce yourself and talk to them, get to know them. And then one day you might need something from them, five years down the road and guess who’s gonna remember this was that lady that came over to who didn’t know me from A from B and gave me two or three cold waters on this hot day. It might have just changed my life. I’m gonna change her tire, or I’m gonna carry her groceries in. Good Karma is real. So just saying hi to them, supporting them being, in the crowd on game nights. Kids thrive on seeing familiar faces in the crowd. Tell them good job when you see them go by. Support your local nonprofit agencies that are out trying to help the kids.

I mean, there’s thousands of ways you can help battle this and there’s not just one answer to me. Just being a good human being. I mean, at the end of the day right there, just being a good human to these kids could change them.

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