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Deaths of young people creates sense of ‘hopelessness’, says teacher

Berkeley teacher Diamond Outerbridge (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The violent deaths of young people create noticeable trauma among students in the schools they attended, according to a teacher.

Diamond Outerbridge, a teacher at The Berkeley Institute, said she had been at the school for seven years – and in that time had seen three pupils murdered and another two incarcerated.

She added that their deaths created such a hopelessness in the school communities that it put pupils at further risk of violent death or incarceration.

Ms Outerbridge said: “It’s definitely heartbreaking. As a teacher, you have these kids in your room for the majority of the day.

“Teachers endeavour to build close relationships with students and to show them as much love and as much support as we can show them.

“We have high hopes for them, so it’s always devastating to see a life cut short, especially when you know them and the potential that they had.”

She added: “I think that even more so, what hurts is to see the impact on students now in our classrooms, when their good friend or cousin or girlfriend or boyfriend is murdered. It’s devastating.

“There’s this feeling of hopelessness – it’s almost like a cloud that covers the students when someone dies.

“They’re starting to think ‘maybe I won’t make it out alive’, or ‘maybe those closest to me won’t make it out alive, and even if I do I’ll be so wounded that a good part of me won’t make it out alive’.”

Ms Outerbridge said that the sense of hopelessness became worse as the reason for each violent death became “pettier”.

She explained: “We’re looking at hopelessness towards survival, where they’re so worried that, if they go to a party, someone might mistake them for someone else or someone might accuse them of something.”

She added: “That hopelessness, I think, starts to breed a numbness towards life and a numbness to your own future.

“From their perspective, they believe the future is very bleak in Bermuda – there’s violence, it’s very difficult to get a job, and if they do get a job it’ll be very difficult to support themselves.”

Ms Outerbridge said that the most recent death, the stabbing of 16-year-old Kanye Ford on September 9, had a noticeable affect on her pupils only days after the school year started.

She said that pupils were tasked with writing down a dream for the future a part of an unrelated exercise.

Ms Outerbridge said that a heartbreaking response came from one of Kanye’s close friends – “for me and my brethren to live”.

“That was devastating for me as a teacher,” she said. “I really care for this student and I want to show him so much care and tell him how much his community values him, but you can see so much hopelessness in his face.”

Ms Outerbridge added: “This kid had hope for himself, even if he lived in a bad area or is friends with people who are involved in antisocial or violent activities – he seemed like he believed he could not fall to the same fate.

“But recently I’ve seen a change in him where it seems like he doesn’t believe that any more, at least now.

“That’s hurtful because it’s like losing them in advance.”

Ms Outerbridge admitted that she had cried to cope with the tragedies – but forced herself each time to try harder with her next batch of pupils.

She said: “I cope by crying just a little bit and then gathering up my strength to try harder the next year to convince those next group of students that is won’t be them – that it can’t be them.

“There is hope and there’s a life for them outside of this.”

She added: “I think it’s really important when dealing with these students to be as honest as possible when it comes to real life matters.

“I think it’s also important for them to see how they arrived here – they’re not alone in the line of history and things have happened generationally and racially to cause the imbalance that we’re seeing.

“I think that’s where I start to say ‘yes you have been wronged and yes you deserve to be mad if you’re mad’.

“But from there I explain that a lot of times we get upset and we direct our anger and aggression the wrong way.

“We can use that as fuel to push us out of this situation, and that’s really what we need to be doing.”

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Published October 05, 2022 at 8:46 am (Updated October 05, 2022 at 3:11 pm)

Deaths of young people creates sense of ‘hopelessness’, says teacher

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