Tag Archives: High school

Race and Poverty Unwarrantedly Tied to the Presence of Metal Detectors in Schools

Schools across the nation employ a wide variety of security measures to ensure the well-being of their students. In large urban neighborhoods, it is not uncommon to find metal detectors as one of these security measures. They are often used as a “last resort” to promote safety. Proponents of the usage of metal detectors state that metal detectors are utilized in districts with a history of chronic weapons offense and that they are often suggested by parents and the media after high-profile school violence incidents. They claim that their presence is necessary to uphold safety so students and parents can feel confident about their schools. However, a recent study conducted by professors of sociology and criminal justice Aaron Kupchik and Geoff Ward revealed that schools with large low-income and minority populations, but not necessarily higher crime rates, are more likely than others to require students to pass through metal detectors.

The study explored the use of multiple security measures including security cameras, metal detectors, full-time law enforcement officers, drug-sniffing dogs, and locked or monitored gates, across a nationally representative sample of 2,510 public schools. Most security measures were common in all high schools regardless of ethnicity and socio-economic status. But metal detectors specifically were more frequently used in elementary, middle and high schools with large minority populations. All of the study’s conclusions remain true after controlling for student misbehavior and crime, location in an urban setting, and perceived area crime rates. The researchers say that this helps rule out the possibility that high-minority and high-poverty schools respond reasonably to an elevated crime threat by implementing tighter security. “Instead, it appears that school officials respond to a presumed correlation between minority and low-income students and violence and weapon use,” said Ward.

The presence of metal detectors in schools has also been discovered to be minimally effective in preventing violence. In fact, they may instead hinder academic success. Students sometimes perceive metal detectors as meaning that their school is unsafe so they can become disruptive to the learning environment. Their usage in elementary and middle schools especially has negative effects on the development and success of the students because it distorts perceptions on how they view themselves and their society. “Criminalization of misbehavior begins earlier for students attending schools with concentrated poverty, potentially contributing to short and long-term disparities in educational achievement,” said Kupchik.

Metal detectors are appealing because they seem to be a quick and easy solution to school violence. However, there are a number of other preventive measures schools can take to ensure the safety of their students. For example, the Blueprints project at the University of Colorado’s Center for the Study of the Prevention of Violence identifies 11 model programs that meet the criteria for effectively reducing violence in school. Also, a systematic review of universal school-based violence prevention programs by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services found these programs were associated with a median 15% reduction in aggressive behavior among students.

Metal detectors should not be considered as a last resort for ensuring security in schools. There are several alternatives that can be as or more successful without hindering academic success or patronizing students. Their use in schools is weakly and sometimes inconsistently related to crime rates within urban communities. There is sufficient evidence to prove that metal detectors are not a very effective measure in preventing violence and they should be regarded.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/3hwurn7; http://tinyurl.com/2b757xt; http://tinyurl.com/3vgtfdx

by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

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Improving Youth Academic Performance through Sports

People are now beginning to recognize the importance of mental attributes such as confidence, composure, focus, and motivation in the performance of athletes. The possession of these qualities is required for the “mental toughness” necessary for sports aptitude. As a result, finding ways to enhance athletic performance and the acquisition of these traits has become an essential and now emerging career track. Within the field of psychology, a branch has been established to deal strictly with the relationship between sports and mental processes— Sport Psychology is the study of the psychological factors that affect participation and performance in sports. Psychological principles such as positive thinking and goal setting can be applied in sports to help athletes perform better and be well prepared for competition. The participation of youths in sports, therefore, is highly recommended because it builds critical skills they will use on the sports field, in school, and in life.

Athletes which have the qualities of mental toughness have the ability to move on after their mistakes, maintain confidence and composure in the face of adversity, and focus on what is needed to execute each task successfully. Professionals in the field of Sport Psychology aim to increase athletic performance by reducing the psychological effects of poor performance and instilling the mental skill needed to attain peak performance. This is accomplished through mental training. Mental training is about improving one’s attitude and mental skills while understanding the mental barriers that hinder performance. These barriers include high expectations, perfectionism, fear of failure, and lack of emotional control and focus.

Schools are highly recommended to include sports into their curriculums and mandate physical education because this increases mental strength and also active involvement in one’s school. Thus, participation in sports can improve performance in all areas of school. It has been discovered that youths who engage in physical activity five or more times a week are more likely to perform better in math and science than the rest of their peers; participating in sports in high school is related to improved English and math scores; sports participation is associated with lower high school drop-out rates; high school athletes are more likely to have a positive relationship with their schools; and that high school athletes are more likely to attend college.

For years, researchers have known that there is a connection between youth involvement in school sports and success later in life. Sports psychology is a very practical discipline and its application in school systems is widely encouraged.

Sources:
What is Mental Training
Economists Link Athletics to Success in School, Job Markets
Facts About Youth Sports and Educational Outcomes

by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

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Filed under Education, Entrepreneurship, Global Youth, Minority Issues, Re:LIFE Inc, Youth, Youth Development, Youth Empowerment

Pathways to Success: Immigrant Youth at High School Part II

Throughout the Pathways to Success research project, participants were asked for suggestions or recommendations that would lead to increased success for immigrant youth in high school. The suggestions are organized by stakeholder group: youth, parents and family, schools, school boards, the provincial educational system and the community. They are the culmination of all the information gathered during the interviews, the focus group meetings, and the community forum.

Youth:

What immigrant youth in high school can do to improve their own success:

  1. Patience and perseverance and most importantly, being unafraid to ask for help. Although the process may take some time and courage, immigrant youth must develop goals and reach out to others for the support they need to accomplish those goals.
  2. Make friends strategically. Immigrant youth should associate with peers who share similar goals and values. They serve as a support group by helping the youth maintain focus and providing motivation when faced with challenges.
  3. Get involved. Immigrant youth should explore the extracurricular activities available in their school. This will help with meeting new people and getting accustomed to the country’s culture.
  4. Maintain Self-confidence. Immigrant youth should believe in their own skills and abilities when faced with challenges. Often overlooked, optimism is an important factor in succeeding in school.
  5. Communicate with parents. Even though families are often stressed themselves, immigrant youth must preserve their connection with their parents. At home, they are their support group.

What native students can do to help immigrant youth:

  1. Being friendly and open-minded. Students should approach the newcomer, involve them as much as possible, and be empathetic about their experiences.

Parents and Family:

What parents and family members can do to get more involved with helping immigrant youth succeed in school:

  1. Get involved: Parents should try to attend parent-teacher conferences regularly, talk to guidance counselors, join the parent council, or volunteer in the school. They must also take steps to inform themselves about their child’s education.
  2. Encourage youths in school. Parents should inquire about how their child is doing in school, take an active interest in their child’s education and pass on to them the value of an education.
  3. Be understanding. The research participants spoke about the difficulty parents have in accepting the changes in their children as a result of living in a new country and experiencing a different culture. Parents should try to be understanding about these changes and communicate with their children throughout this process.

Schools:

What individual schools can do to accommodate to immigrant youth:

  1. Develop peer mentoring programs. Research participants discussed the benefits of matching the immigrant youth with another student who can understand their challenges. Mentors can reduce isolation and introduce the youth to new people and activities.
  2. Increasing openness and understanding. Students, teachers and principals should take part in educational activities that can prepare them for a more diverse student population. They should be aware of their impact on immigrant youth and practice openness and understanding to make them feel comfortable.
  3. Develop communication strategies and partnerships with parents. Parents may be excluded from their children’s high school experience when they are not aware of how they are to communicate with teachers and principals or if they face language barriers in communicating with them. Schools need to develop strategies that will enable parents to participate more and to inform them regularly about their children’s education.
  4. Increase social opportunities for immigrant youth. Immigrant youth need to be aware of and have access to social opportunities with other students within the school.  This will help them develop stronger social networks, understand the culture of their new country and orient them to the type of activities that are available to them.
  5. Develop leadership opportunities. Immigrant youth must be encouraged to assume leadership roles to increase their involvement and opportunities within the school. This can also provide valuable growth and learning for both immigrant youth and native students and can increase full student representation in decision making.
  6. Develop a welcoming, representative environment. Schools should be a place where all students feel represented and valued. Steps should be taken to incorporate these qualities into schools so that they are structurally, behaviorally and visually more welcoming.

School Boards:

What school boards can do to make meaningful changes in the learning environment:

  1. Hire qualified, quality teachers. Hiring practices should prioritize teachers who understand diversity issues and the various needs of their students, and teachers who are representative of the student population. Current teachers should be properly trained on diversity issues and be acknowledged and supported for their commitment to these efforts.
  2. Increase multi-cultural training of teachers. Teachers are not always prepared for working with diverse populations, or properly educated on the issues and realities that accompany immigrant youth when they arrive in a foreign country. Mandatory training for teachers should be incorporated into all schools.
  3. Increase subsidies and make them more available to immigrant youth. Make sure that immigrant youth are aware of subsidies for books and extra-curricular activities.
  4. Provide orientation for the parents. An orientation will ensure that parents are well informed when their children enroll in school.

Provincial Education System:

What system-level changes should be made regarding the success of immigrant youth in high school:

  1. Increase funding for partnerships between schools and community organizations: Partnerships between schools and community programs such as the YMCA settlement services are of great value to immigrant families. Strengthening these partnerships will benefit schools, families and communities.
  2. Incorporate a more comprehensive ESL program: Research participants suggested changes to the current ESL curriculum, such as positioning grammar as a central component of their ESL learning priorities in order to improve their written and verbal skills.
  3. Value quality education for all youth: Ideas about quality education should consider what each child requires in order to complete high school successfully. This should be an ongoing message within government and communities especially for youth who experience an “education gap” from going in and out of school in their home countries. Strategies should be explored so that these youth are not pushed out of the high school system before they are ready to leave.
  4. Develop support for parents: There should be a designated contact that can ensure families get the information they need when they arrive.
  5. Offer more support, programs, and time for immigrant families: After families arrive, they should be given more support in transitioning their children into school.

Communities:

What communities can do:

  1. Be more welcoming: Communities should work to increase understanding of immigrants and to welcome them as an important part of the social, cultural and economic make-up of the community.
  2. Acknowledge the potential and skills of immigrants: Communities should be open to the skills, abilities and credentials of immigrants and support them in finding employment.
  3. Adapt to the changing population: Communities should be open, flexible and adaptive to the immigrant population.
  4. Increase immigrant-friendly policies and representation of immigrants in the community: Immigrants should be adequately represented in decision-making roles in communities to ensure appropriate input into policies and other decisions that affect them.
  5. Make immigrant youth aware of positive role models: Communities should help connect immigrant youth with positive role models that can provide them with mentorship and confidence in themselves.

This research illustrates the complexity of the immigrant youth experience and how little is currently being done to accommodate their situation. Immigrant families generally have high expectations of what a foreign education can provide for them. Yet, there are many challenges preventing the fulfillment of these expectations. The active participation of schools, school boards, communities, etc. can greatly reduce this and consequently ease high-school drop-out rates and increase the success of high schools.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/3c7vv23

by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

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Filed under Global Youth, Youth, Youth Empowerment

Pathways to Success: Immigrant Youth at High School Part I

In diverse cities like New York there is a greater chance that older immigrant youth, without the time to learn and the ability to speak fluent English, will drop out of high school. Also, discrimination; social and geographic isolation; little or no work experience; and lower levels of English proficiency make it even more difficult for older immigrant youth to find employment—thus resulting in disconnection. Immigrants comprise 30% of high school drop-outs in the Unites States. In Canada—the location of the Pathways to Success: Immigrant Youth at High School research project—studies on immigrant youth show that alarmingly high numbers, 46% to 74% in some areas, do not complete high school.

The Pathways to Success research project was a partnership between the Center for Research and Education in Human Services (CREHS) and Wilfrid Laurier University and was conducted in 2006. The Waterloo region of Canada was used as a case study to explore factors that can maximize social and academic accomplishment in immigrant youth attending high school. The project builds on past research by providing in-depth insights into the immigrant youth experience in high school—their challenges, desires, and attitudes to their situation— in order to offer concrete “pathways of success” rooted in the experiences of the immigrant students themselves. The study was centered on youth aged 16 to 20 who had been living in Canada at most five years. The surveyed students where from four ethno-cultural backgrounds: Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan; Northeast Africa; Spanish-speaking Latin America; and the former Yugoslavia.

The project emerged from the increasing concerns about the standing of immigrant youth when they arrive in Canada because the drop-out rates have created challenges for school boards, educators, and communities. Waterloo was an ideal location because it is a mid-sized urban community with a high immigrant population. The researchers’ hope is that their work can be applicable to other communities.

Collecting Data

The questions that guided this study were:

  1. What factors help and hinder positive social and academic outcomes for immigrant youth in high school?
    • What enables them to succeed in school?
    • What prevents them from succeeding in school?
    • What contributes to the desire to either stay in school or leave?
  2. What are the current promising practices or success stories?
  3. What role should peers, families, educational institutions, and the community-at-large play in facilitating positive academic and social outcomes for immigrant youth in school?
  4. What policy instruments and program models within the school system would maximize positive academic and social outcomes for immigrant youth in school?

Methods of gathering information:

  1. Ten key informant interviews with school board trustees/senior administrators, student leaders, parents serving on the Parent Council, ESL teacher, and other community leaders: The purpose of these interviews was to address the guiding questions from different perspectives.
  2. Eight focus groups with immigrant youth, parents of the immigrant youth, and high school teachers: The information gathered in the key informant interviews helped to frame further questions to ask the focus group participants.
  3. Ten in-depth individual interviews with immigrant youth.
  4. A community forum attended by approximately 160 participants including youth, teachers, service providers, government representatives, families, and other interested citizens: The purpose of this was to present the study’s findings and to mobilize the community in the development of a set of strategies to ensure greater success of immigrant youth in high schools.

Research Findings

The results of this study were organized under sections that emerged from the data: the first impression immigrant youth have once arriving in Canada; what enables immigrant youth to have positive experiences in school; and what factors hinder positive experiences.

1. First Impressions

In general, youth and parents both spoke of the opportunities available in Canada, as well as the challenges and stresses related to adapting to a new home. In regard to the school system, some immigrant youth spoke positively about their first impressions and experiences of high school. For them, high school offered new benefits and opportunities not available in their native countries (e.g., more freedoms, better preparation for post-secondary education). Yet other youth also described their first experience of high school as a time of intense confusion and disorientation. This was especially the case for youth who struggled with English when they first arrived.

2. What Enables Positive Outcomes

The enabling factors are organized under three main categories: individual and family level, institutional level and community level. The individual and family level included self-motivation, family support, peer support, and friendships. The institutional level included supportive teachers and principals, consistent and quality education, and specific school, or school-community support systems. On the community level, enabling factors included community support services.

3. What Hinders Positive Outcomes

There are three main categories: individual and family level, institutional level, and socio-political level. Although presented as individual factors, quite often participants reported that a combination of factors led to negative outcomes for youth in high school. On the individual level, the hindering factors were difficulties fitting in to high school culture; the trauma and stress of escaping from war or violence in their native countries; their parents’ unemployment; and parent-child role reversal. The institutional level included unwelcoming school culture and climate; inadequate resources and support systems in school; and difficulties with the school system and meeting academic requirements. The socio-economic level included gaps in education and lack of fluency in English; and teasing and bullying from their peers.

With all this information, the researchers were able to devise a set of recommendations to improve the immigrant experience in high school and possibly reduce drop-out rates.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/3c7vv23

by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

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Filed under Global Youth, Youth, Youth Empowerment

Framework for Positive Youth Development: Every Child Requires These FIVE Promises

The ‘framework for positive youth development’ outlines the support that young people need in order to transition successfully into adulthood. It emphasizes the necessity of focusing on youths’ strengths, identifying their weaknesses and minimizing their risk factors. Gallup Student Poll studies suggest that majority of the youth in the United States are not hopeful, engaged and thriving in their personal and educational/occupational lives—in fact, only four out of ten are succeeding in these areas. Lawmakers tend to focus on the risk factors or negative behaviors of youth, such as trying to find ways to reduce teenage pregnancy or high school drop-out rates. Just as reinforcement is proven to be more effective than punishment when trying to change someone’s behavior, positive youth development is a better tool for trying to fix these problems. It emphasizes the support and services that must be available to help youth in their various stages of development.

The framework, developed by America’s Promise Alliance, circles around the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs of young people. It states that youth need FIVE key support systems throughout their development:

Caring Adults: This Promise discusses the importance of concerned adults in young peoples’ lives. These adults can be in their families, from their schools, or members of their communities. Those who are able to develop secure relationships with their parents and formal and informal relationships with adults such as mentors, coaches, and youth volunteers have a great advantage. However, it seems that 30% of teenagers and 20% of younger children do not have quality relationships with their parents and only 8% of youth ages six to seventeen have a formal mentor. Youths themselves realize the importance of having adults in their lives—40% of young people ages 8 to 21 do wish they had these adult figures which they could turn to for help.

Safe Places: The second Promise encompasses the importance of physical and emotional security. From their homes, to schools, to neighborhoods, youth need safe places in order to develop. Sadly, only 37% have this luxury. These places must also engage them actively and constructively—there should be balance of structured and unstructured activities. Only four in ten young people participate in activities that teach needed skills, such as how to form lasting relationships with others and how to make big decisions. A great majority of them say that they sometimes (or never) feel safe in their schools or communities.

Healthy Start to Development: This Promise deals with the fact that youth need a healthy start to their development, including healthy bodies, minds, and habits. This can be ensured through regular checkups with a doctor, good nutrition and exercise, healthy skills and knowledge, and good role models. Although Americans have increased their awareness in health especially by recognizing the dangers of obesity, studies still show that only 43% of our young people are experiencing this Promise. 65% of them actually said that they wish they knew more stores and restaurants that sold healthy foods and drinks.

Effective Education: This Promise is about the importance of an effective education. Intellectual stimulation is an important aspect for youth as they grow, and for the future, when one must secure a job. In today’s competitive global economy, education is more important than ever. It results from having quality learning environments, challenging expectations and consistent guidance. More than 60% of youth ages ten to twenty-one believe that their schools should give them more preparation for the real world.

Opportunities to Help Others: The last Promise deals with opportunities to help others. Youth want to get involved in their communities, but many lack meaningful opportunities to contribute. America’s Promise Alliance states that “Knowing how to make a difference comes from having models of caring behavior, awareness of the needs of others, a sense of personal responsibility to contribute to the larger society, and opportunities for volunteering, leadership and service.”

These are known as the “Five Promises”. America’s Promise Alliance noticed that “Children who receive at least four of the Five Promises are much more likely than those who experience only one or zero Promises to succeed academically, socially and civically. They are more likely to avoid violence, contribute to their communities and achieve academic excellence in school. Receiving at least four of the Five Promises also appears to mitigate gaps across racial and economic boundaries.”

States are now beginning to use this framework to develop policies and programs to help youth prepare for college, work and life. Re:LIFE Inc. adopts these Promises and endeavor to ensure that the Re:LIFE Team and all its programs effectively employ them. We are a number of caring adults dedicated to helping youth succeed. We provide positive learning environments and effective educational programs, which include internship opportunities for youth to contribute to their communities by applying what they have learned. All youth-based institutions in the U.S. should try to adhere to the framework for positive youth development. As the saying goes, “Children are the future”, and by implementing these ideas we invest and develop the future of our nation as well.

Source
http://www.ncsl.org/?tabid=16375#frameworks
 
by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology
Edited by Chike Ukaegbu

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Filed under Entrepreneurship, Global Youth, Re:LIFE Inc, ReLIFE, Youth, Youth Development, Youth Empowerment

Empowering Youth: Qualities of an Effective Mentor II

GENUINE LISTENER

A Youth Mentor Must Be  A Genuine Listener.

A week ago, I started the series on Qualities of an Effective Mentor in respect to Youth Empowerment. In that article, I stressed on the need to

1. Assess – Test the mental, emotional, social and psychological stability of prospective mentors,

2.  Train – Equip qualified mentors with tools and materials relevant to building successful relationships and mentoring youth

3. Monitor- Supervise and Monitor relationships to ensure effectiveness and positive impact from people who mentor youth.

Following these steps will minimize the rate at which unqualified and incapable people dabble into the business of Youth Mentoring.

I also talked about the importance of Empathy and Compassion in relation to Youth Development, and how they could help one build trust in a mentor-youth relationship (Click to read article)

My second point therefore, is the need for Genuine Listening and its impact when dealing with youth. We have all heard the ‘talk less, listen more’ clichés and so on.  However, as watered-down as the quote might sound, we need to emulate it when dealing with youth. Borrowing from Deborah Tanned’s quote, “the biggest mistake is believing that there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation—or a relationship”, one must be an extremely skilled and resourceful listener to understand and impact youth. By listening, I don’t just mean what is being said, you have to listen to what their bodies are saying, what their eyes are saying, what their moods are saying, EVERYTHING; and try to coordinate them to all say the same thing.

In order words, if you notice that one’s mood is sour and unusual, and responses to well-being questions are simply ‘I’m fine’, something could be wrong. Find it out! In fact, one thing that effective listening helps you do is become more familiar with your mentee’s responses, actions, behaviors or moods, which in turn could help you address a need.

By being observant, by listening to more than just words, you convince the youth that you do not just want to be around, but that you genuinely CARE, and care deeply about their well-being. This will help them open up more readily, sometimes before you even ask about an issue. One strategy that always worked for me when inquiring about a sour mood was to tell a story about a disappointment I had in the past and how not sharing it made it hurt some more. This always worked even though in some cases there is usually some delay, and then a gradual opening up.

Another strategy is to tactfully ask about their loved ones. If the reason for a certain mood or action is caused by a loved one, a unique reaction, either a sigh, a heave, pain or more sorrow is always expressed when you mention the person behind the mood. It helps them open up to tell you what happened. However, if they insist on not sharing, let them be. Just be patient about it, they eventually do.

Now I intentionally did not use the word ‘Observer’ because I believe that an observer is not as involved in a relationship as a Listener. An observer is sometimes a third person ‘interactor’ who only needs to make an observation without making direct connection. An observer is not obligated to respond. A listener on the other hand is an attentive participator with an intention and/or an expectation of some sort of response; whether it be a silent response (i.e. nodding, acknowledgement etc), verbal response or a physical reaction. A connection is needed for effective response. Observation is in essence, a crucial part of listening, but should not be mistaken for it or substituted for it.

Thus, in listening to your mentee, every word, action, mood, movement, excuse, motive, mannerism, etc is relevant in building the framework of messages being passed across in order to effectively respond to their actions. A genuine and positive response based on a cautious interpretation of messages received (from words, actions, moods, etc) could gainfully affect and help uplift a mentee in their time of distress or rebellion. So Observe carefully, but LISTEN GENUINELY!

Download PDF: Empowering Youth- Qualities of an Effective Mentor I

Download PDF: Empowering Youth- Qualities of an Effective Mentor II

By Chike Ukaegbu,
Founder/CEO, Re:LIFE Inc
Re:LIFE is a 501c3 nonprofit organization determined to educate, equip, encourage, cultivate and motivate young disconnected males to become entrepreneurs in diverse fields that will spur economic growth, reduce unemployment, and increase fiscal responsibility in our communities. This entrepreneurial focus will come alongside educational, career and leadership preparations in five different areas of concentration.
For more information about the Re:LIFE Re-engagement Program and other Re:LIFE services, Contact us at:
Email: relife@relifeinc.org
Call: 347.450.1205/06
Visit our Website: http://www.relifeinc.org
Become a LIFEr Today: http://bit.ly/fN6B0b
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Causes of Male Youth Disconnection: Being an ‘Out of Work and Out of School’ Youth in Harlem during an Economic Recession

Download  Article: PDF (Causes of Male Youth Disconnection)

I have mentored youth in Harlem for over 7 years. For them, being in an economic situation where it seems like ‘when it rains, it pours’, is nothing new to most if not all of the youth I deal with in Harlem. I mean the bills, homelessness, violation tickets, racial discrimination, probation, joblessness etc, are only a few of the plights many of my mentees and GED students encounter. But I could tell you without a doubt that this recession has definitely deepened their already bad quandary. Most of them who were slightly better off with menial jobs and other sources of low-income are now being faced with the ugly reality of joblessness or inconsistent meager wages, while accumulating more bills and responsibilities to take care of.

The effects of the looming recession, depression, or whatever else we choose to brand it, have only deepened the impact of a nationally growing crisis – Youth Disconnection. Youth Disconnection is a term used to describe ‘Out of Work and Out of School’ youth; a phenomenon, which had always been a serious problem among minority male youth of several urban cities like New York City. However, the recent events of the past few years are exponentially multiplying its population and effects.

In retrospect, the consequences of disconnection contribute to the burdens on every society’s financial and social responsibilities. These demographic of ‘work-capable’ youth constitute only a meager tax base, weaken the security of their communities, have the tendency to resort to drug trafficking, crime and violence, and result in higher expenditures on public benefits. It is therefore a community’s duty to invest in re-engaging these youth, or continue to bear the consequences of a lackadaisical attitude.

There are over 220,000 disconnected youth in the NYC area, majority of whom are males, all on their way or already burdens to society.  This often overlooked demographic, mostly live in poverty, tends to experience sporadic employments, earn underpaid wages, are dependent on public assistance, and most often fall prey to crime and violent deeds.

Interestingly, these youth are supposed to be the socioeconomic drivers and sustainers of our community’s future. Without having the availability of proficient, employable young workers to replace increasingly retiring baby boomers (who are in fact learning now to stay longer on the job because of current financial hardships), several industries on which our economic sustenance is hinged upon is bound to be in trouble. For instance, according to the NYC Labor Market Information Service, the average age of Construction workers in New York City is 50, a figure which translates to an estimated 20,000 construction opening s in 2011.  Also, the healthcare industry, already in jeopardy of insufficient qualified personnel will further experience workforce crises, as one-third of current healthcare workers (nurses and aides) retire. Most of these health personnel were over the age of 50 in 2000.  It is therefore clear that regardless of the economic crises, there is a pertinent need to train and equip youth to fill these openings both now and in the nearest future.

However, in order to solve the problem of disconnection, it is necessary to understand its roots. From research and experience, I have compiled a list of some factors that cause disconnection in Harlem and our societies at large.

A) Dropping Out of School: Employees without High School Diplomas are least likely to hold consistent gainful employments. This is because they are the most vulnerable during job cuts and corporation size reductions. According to NYC Department of Education, African-Americans and Hispanics males were the least likely to earn their diplomas in 2000 (most recent year of relevant documentation). These demographic groups have graduation rates of less than 50%.

B) Aging Out of Foster Care System: Youth who age out of foster care without proper transitioning trainings tend to fall prey to disconnection. These mostly experience instability of multiple foster-care placements, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, mental illness, criminality and/or substance abuse before discharge.

C) Poverty and Low-Quality Education: The economic crises has resulted in the demand of higher levels of literacy and technical proficiency, making it increasingly difficult for even high school diploma holders to find gainful employment with the opportunity of advancement. In fact, the instability and insecurities of parental or guardian income sometimes causes younger school-aged youth to drop out of school in order to find work. Young people with semi- or illiterate parents, who do not stress the need, nor value the importance of quality education, end up dropping out of school for lousy reasons.

D) Early Parenthood: According to studies by Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, teenage fatherhood, which has received far less scrutiny than teenage motherhood has many negative educational, financial, social, health and other developmental consequences for these young men and their children. Young teenage males who become parents while dependent on others tend to drop out of school more often than their counterparts without children. National surveys indicate that there are as much as 7% of male teenagers who are fathers, with higher rates among inner-city and African-American youth (Sonenstein, Pleck, and Ku, 1993).

E) Older Immigrant Youth: In the diverse-rich City of New York, (Harlem being a bouquet of several immigrant groups, from Africans, to Hispanics, to Asians, Arabs, etc), there is a greater chance that older immigrant youth without the time to learn, and ability to fluently speak English will most likely drop out of school. Also, discrimination, social and geographic isolation, little or no job experience, and lower levels of English proficiency make it even increasingly difficult for older immigrant youth to find employment; thus resulting to disconnection.

F) Juvenile Delinquency: Youth with convicted backgrounds find it difficult staying in school or finding work. With more than 2000 juveniles detained in New York City facilities everyday (NYC Council), and 1200 returning to the City from correctional facilities from other parts of the State, more than two-thirds of these youth experience disconnection because of the multitude of barriers encountered while trying to secure employment or re-enroll in school.

G) Youth with Emotional/Behavioral Issues or Learning Disabilities: Emotional or behavioral issues in youth, which are often less obvious than physical impairments, are great contributors to youth disconnection. Each year, 12 – 15, 000 of the City’s 50,000 disabled 14-21 year olds drop out of school without graduating (Advocates for Children, 2005), increasing disconnected youth population.

H) High Levels of Unemployment: While New York City is experiencing high levels of unemployment rates of around 10%, minority based communities such as Harlem have consistently been hit harder by the steep uptick in unemployment rates. According to the New York State Department of Labor, unemployment rates in certain Harlem districts were as high as 18%, even tripling the overall City’s rate in some cases. Studies have shown that whereas the unemployment rates of whites in Upper Manhattan is between 4-5%, rates of Blacks and Hispanics fluctuate around the 20% mark.

Unfortunately, besides the economic crises, unemployment rates are usually closely tied to factors such as education (regions of lesser high school diplomas tend to experience higher unemployment rates), language barriers and criminal backgrounds. These are factors that all plague the Harlem community, as well as hinder the re-engagement of disconnected youth. I was therefore appalled to realize that existing public education and workforce funding for programs targeted to this demographic, serve no more than 7% of New York City’s disconnected youth.  There are very few programs available to disconnected youth that utilize a combined education and workforce development approach.

Re:LIFE, having assessed these obstacles, realized that the missing innovations to the combined education and workforce development approach lacked

a) The training of disconnected youth to become entrepreneurs. As the saying goes, ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’

b) The use of practical and effective youth-friendly curriculum, schedule and flexible modules

c) The right expertise and youth-understanding professionals to coach/mentor youth

Re:LIFE is determined to educate, equip, encourage, cultivate and motivate young disconnected males to become entrepreneurs in diverse fields that will spur economic growth, reduce unemployment, and increase fiscal responsibility in our communities. This entrepreneurial focus will come alongside educational, career and leadership preparations in five different areas of concentration.

For more information about the Re:LIFE Re-engagement Program and other Services, Contact us at:

Email: relife@relifeinc.org

Call: 347.450.1201/06

Visit our Website: http://www.relifeinc.org

Become a LIFEr Today: http://bit.ly/fN6B0b

Like our Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/hewFET

Follow us on Twitter: Relifeinc

Add us on LinkedIn: Re:LIFE Incorporated

 

By Chike Ukaegbu,

Founder/CEO, Re:LIFE Inc


 

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