Article by Melissa Martin – Melissa is obtaining her Master’s in Social Work at Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work and is currently a practicum student with Wyman.
Recently, youth in the St. Louis region have developed a bad rap. From the “knockout game,” to the shootings in the Delmar Loop, youth violence has become a prevalent concern for adults in the region. Unfortunately this focus on the negative behaviors of a select few has overshadowed the many positive contributions that local youth make daily to improve their communities. Rarely do we stop and take time to celebrate youth for the meaningful acts of goodwill that they do on a daily basis and to point out that youth are positively impacting the communities in which they live.
With this in mind, the students at Maplewood Richmond Heights High School organized the Million Minor March to draw attention to the acts of goodwill in which local youth take part. Setting the bar high, MRH students hoped to gather one million youth in downtown St. Louis to participate in a march that would go down in the history books.
On Saturday May 5th, I had the opportunity to chaperone a group of Brittany Woods Middle School students in Wyman’s TOP® at the Million Minor March. When our yellow school bus approached Soldiers Memorial, the students were full of anticipation. Sweat beads ran down their faces, as the youth exited the bus to be greeted by the 90-degree heat and a group of excited Maplewood Richmond Heights faculty and students.
Around 12:45 p.m. we began the march from Soldiers Memorial to Kiener Plaza for the rally. As we all walked wearing our gray “Million Minor March” t-shirts onlookers turned to watch and/or asked questions concerning what we were marching for.
The day ended at Kiener Plaza with a group picture in front of the Arch and several speakers from Maplewood Richmond Heights High School inspiring the youth to continue making an impact in the world. While I would approximate that the Million Minor March and rally, was actually more like a Hundred Minor March, I think it’s important to not discredit the small beginnings. Though there were not a million people at the march this year, there were enough people to draw the attention of local media outlets and onlookers. As word begins to spread, and planning begins for next year’s march, I am optimistic that next year, youth from throughout the region, state, and even perhaps the nation, will show up!
May this small beginning not squelch the dream of a million teens standing together and proving to the world that the prevailing negative stereotypes of youth are not representative of all!