For a lot of kids in high school, gangs are a pretty foreign concept. When the word ‘gang’ is said, a lot of kids think of mafia movies. The reality is gangs are a lot closer to us than we’d like to think. Gangs are really powerful and they exist in a lot of different levels, a lot of different places and as I look around the school, I see gang colours and it scares me.
Gangs can be tricky to identify because they come in a lot of different forms. Some people consider a group of kids hanging out a gang. Every school has this kind of group, the kids who always hang out together, just chilling out and being friends. They don’t hurt anyone, but they definitely feel stronger in a large group.
Then there are the kids in school who form a group to do something specific, like bully someone for lunch money. This kind of group can even be looked at as a gang because they work in a pack to do something bad. Not cool.
A youth street gang is the kind of gang that Michael used to a part of. This kind of gang is seriously intense and they are organized. They take their membership really seriously. To be a member of this kind of gang you usually go through an initiation process that can consist of an assigned crime or a beating-in. Schools aren’t safe from this kind of gang, in fact they often recruit in schools. Gangs like this mark their territory or turf with colours and graffiti and it’s really difficult to get out of this kind of gang.
There are a lot of different reasons kids join gangs; belonging, excitement and protection being a few reason. Becoming a member of a gang is never a smart move though because once you are in, it can be tough to get out. Your life becomes part of a larger group, a group you don’t have control over.
Be smart, be yourself and if you see anything weird happening in your school, talk to a trusted teacher or adult about what’s going on. If communities work together, big things can happen – both for bad and good.