Boot Camps For Teens – Do Shock and Awe Tactics Work?

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Stanley is a 14 year old juvenile teen with tears cascading down his cheeks. He’s been wanting to cry since the day he arrived but his masculinity has held him back. Plus he heard that there’s a bet going around that either he or a tall thin kid named Jerimiah would be the first to cry. Standing in his used green camouflage pants, he continued to let three days of frustrated emotion pour from him as his stern drill instructor yelled obscenities. Breaking a teen down to build him back up, these shock and awe tactics continue to bring teens down, and in a lot of cases they stay there.

After the last salty tear hits the hot steamy pavement, Stanley gathers whats left of his dignity and runs the laps his Drill Sergent has been screaming for him to run for the last 15 minutes. Although he can see the other teens standing in line at attention,without a smile on their stone faces, he knows the minute Drill Sergent calls out “cadets..dismissed!”, each and everyone of his peers will unmercifully call him names. At this point, he does not care, he just wants one thing. To go home. He somehow knows that going home will not be possible–his parents have given up with his drug dealing, truancy, fighting, and stealing. Is he sorry? Is he waiting for the moment when he sees his mother’s brown eyes so he can give her a tight consolatory hug? No.

In fact, he’s hardened his heart even more. Who is the best person to take out his anger on? The one person he blames more than anyone for his predicament–his mother. As his expensive $150 Air Jordan shoes struggle to stay within the lines of the track (Drill Sergent will make you run more laps if you touch the line), he thinks about all the ways he can make his mother pay for sending him to boot camp. Now he’s never going to school. He will never wash another dish. He will sell not only marijuana, he will sell crack. As his mother sits 110 miles away thinking her son will “learn his lesson”, Stanley conscientiously plans every “payback” he can think of.

Laying in his neatly made bunk, with every muscle in his body throbbing from the 500 pushups he did because his Drill Sergent found Doritos in his trunk again. He plots. He thinks. He ponders. Is some of this situation his fault? Maybe he should take more responsibility around the house, or maybe he should attend school more. He remembers the essay he wrote when he was 12 years old. It was titled “I want to be president”. Maybe he has been very disruptive to his mother; he knows that she works hard for his sake. She has provided everything he owns. As he looks at the Air Jordans placed neatly on the floor right beside him he starts to think about the valentine card he made his mother in 3rd grade. She was so proud to get it. Her face turned red as the joy spilled from her pores. But reality hits him like a ton of bricks when Drill Sergent walks into the cabin with the same horse voice, yelling the same three words he has yelled since day 1 “lights out ladies”. He hates being called a lady.

He shuts his eyes as tight as he possibly can to try to hold back a new tear. He is within 10 feet of the next bunk. Surely the other teens will start all over again if they hear one whimper from Stanley. A tear does fall to his crisp white pillow case, but he does not make a sound. Once again he looks for someone to blame this situation on. He refocuses his negative energy on the one person who loves him more than any other person in the world–his mother.

When she picks him up three weeks later, she notices he has bruises around his eye. This was a fight that he started in attempt to restore some of his street cred. She also notices that he has lost the 25lbs she has been hoping he would lose for the past three years. He looks good. But what is this? She notices a look that she is all to familiar with. It’s in his eyes, but this time it is even more amped. It is the exact look she hoped she would not see. Hell, she even paid $3000 so she would not see the look. It is a look of…revenge!


write by Athena Nguyen

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