Tag Archives: United States

Occupied With Inequality

Day 9 Occupy Wall Street September 25 2011 Sha...

While hundreds of people occupy Wall Street, calling on the 99% to stand up against the 1%, inequality has become the new buzzword.  But is income and wealth inequality only a recent issue, unique to a small group of 20-somethings in the 2000’s?  Of course not, economic injustice and inequality of opportunity have plagued the United States, and especially the African-American community, since its founding.  However, a slow-to-thaw recession and diminishing opportunities for work have motivated a different population to mobilize against the economic injustices they are only now beginning to feel.

While incomes have generally risen in the United States in the past decades, incomes for African-Americans have risen at a slower rate than their white counterparts. This income disparity carries into future generations, as parents struggle to provide proper housing, food, healthcare and education for their children.  Hiring discrimination persists as African-Americans tend be chosen less often for the same jobs than do European Americans or Caucasians.  Income inequality then is the cumulative result of a series of factors, that begin with the inability to obtain higher paying jobs and the forced segregation of low-income housing.

Unrelenting income inequality has not been the result of overt, institutionalized oppression or segregation, but rather, is caused by more subtle forces that begin with minor prejudices and take shape in discriminatory lending, redlining, skewed school district lines and many other socioeconomic factors.

As depicted in the chart of median personal income by race and education from the 2006 Census and the graph published by the U.S. Census Bureau on Median Household Income across race, the average incomes of African-Americans are consistently less than white Americans, even at levels of higher education, and decades after the Civil Rights movement.

Race

Median personal income

Overall Median

High school graduate

Some college

Bachelor’s degree or higher

Bachelor’s degree

Masters degree

 Adv.

degrees

White M $40,432 $33,805 $40,427 $61,175 $55,129 $67,903 $77,818
F $26,636 $21,306 $25,190 $40,161 $36,076 $45,555 $56,759
Both $32,919 $27,291 $31,510 $49,879 $43,841 $52,244 $71,184
Black M $30,549 $25,747 $32,758 $46,474 $41,889 $52,488 N/A
F $25,435 $20,366 $25,574 $42,461 $41,263 $45,830 N/A
Both $27,110 $22,328 $27,589 $44,460 $41,565 $47,407 $61,993

Income inequality in the United States is an old story, especially for African-Americans.  So, why organize now?  And who are the occupiers down in Zuccotti Park?

With one tenth of the population unemployed, and far more underemployed, with growing foreclosures, looming personal debt and little promise that change is on the horizon, there is a conviction among many that, perhaps, they have been slighted: enter “The Occupiers”.

Zuccotti Park finds itself teeming with primarily young people, who are primarily white.  They represent a group of people who have grown up believing that a college education, which they obtained without much obstruction, would secure them some financial stability and even a job after graduation.  Feeling duped by society’s promise, they see exorbitant bonuses for CEOs and the big bank bailouts as unjust in the face of their plight.

In many ways, lower Manhattan’s Occupy Wall Street is about the economic injustices that a young population of people has only begun to experience.  Meanwhile, the African-American community has been party to a more pervasive inequality for decades.  The income gap as displayed in the graph above points to the consistent income inequality that African American’s have felt, with no trend suggesting that this gap will soon close.

So it seemed inevitable that an Occupy Harlem would sprout up, as it did on Friday October 28, 2011, at St. Phillip’s Church in Central Harlem.  While the Occupy Harlem borrows from the “blueprint” of Occupy Wall Street grievances, it addresses, more specifically, the historic plight of inequality for African-Americans.  In addition to income inequality and corporate power, Occupy Harlem will bring into dialogue contemporary humanitarian issues in Africa as well as local issues of discrimination such as the “Stop and Frisk” policy that deeply concerns the Harlem community.

Beyond exercising the rights of free speech and organization through Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Harlem, it is imperative to break the cycle of inequality by providing mentoring programs for the inner city’s youth.  Especially important are the programs that work to build entrepreneurial skills among disconnected youth.

As young community members gain a foothold by building their own successful businesses, they foster employment in the community, provide a stable local source of income for community members, and become role models themselves, all the while, working toward bridging the overwhelming inequality gap with which we are so occupied today.

As the occupiers in Zuccotti Park remind us, it is the younger generation that must stand up and demand change, because they are the ones who stand to benefit most from a more just, less impoverished society.  Whether through education, entrepreneurship or social action, the city’s youth must step up and work together to gain their foothold in society!

To learn more about Re:LIFE’s upcoming event in Harlem: Click EMPOWER’D

 
 By Amy Richards
Re:LIFE Inc Writer
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Why The American Public School System Keeps Failing Our Youth

President Bush signing the No Child Left Behin...

Former President GW Bush with members of Congress at the signing of 'No Child Left Behind' Act Image via Wikipedia

In 2007, 17 of the nation’s 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50 percent, with a consistent 1.2 million dropouts every year.  Meanwhile, twenty-five percent of the United States population is functionally illiterate, unable to consult a dictionary, to read signs or follow basic written directions.  Overall, the United States is suffering from a high school dropout rate of about 30 percent each year.  For a nation so esteemed for its multifaceted education provided for all, these rates are shameful.  If there indeed exist such great barriers for success in school, how is it that the United States still claims equality of opportunity?  Spend a day in most any inner-city high school, and you will find the plight of public schools has reached crisis proportions.  New York City Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein, agrees: the public education crisis has become the “greatest domestic issue” Americans face today.

Where public schools suffer, the middle and upper class have the option of sending their children to privately-funded institutions, any one of a variety of boarding schools, charters, academies, prep schools, specialized schools for math and science or Waldorf schools.  These are the schools that have inundated the suburbs outside the largest U.S. cities, so much so that private affluence now goes hand-in-hand with public squalor in the school system.  While private schools have the freedom to develop unique curricula, support their personnel financially, and provide the resources that facilitate an orderly learning environment, public schools are restricted to the whims of government policy decisions, to one central voice, to No Child Left Behind.

Public schools today are subject to a system of zero-tolerance policies, which entails increased suspensions, expulsions and referrals to juvenile justice system, coupled with an “ordering regime”, or standardized one-size-fits-all school policies.  Zero-tolerance is applied to any and all deviant acts at school, lending itself to increased police intervention in the school environment and punishment of children (no matter their psychological or mental functioning level) by mandated sanctions.  In admitting youth to the juvenile justice system for very minor offenses, students miss school work, develop distrust of teachers and administrators, suffer punishments of probation, expulsion and the corresponding emotional trauma, and finally carry the delinquent stigma throughout their school career.  Overwhelmingly, these are the students who eventually drop out, commit crimes and are incarcerated.

Philadelphia provides a perfect case study in inner city education, expelling students at a rate of three hundred per day.  On average, students are about four years behind in reading level in Philadelphia.  Almost half of students drop out between ninth and tenth grade, joining the ever-growing group of “disconnected youth”, youth ages 16-24, who are neither in school nor officially employed.
What has the No Child Left Behind Act, implemented by the Bush administration in 2002, done to make reforms?  Under the act, schools must meet “adequate yearly progress”, which cannot be met if a single student in the school fails federal exams that are given on top of mandatory state exams.  Pressure to meet such standards is applied with the threat of “take over” by the government or complete loss of funding.  In fact, pressure runs so high that public schools are inclined to suspend or expel students who are at risk of failing, in order to ensure that the school meets the requirements.

In fact, Villanova is host to a variety of campus organizations that work with inner-city Philadelphia public school programs.  Villanova students experience similar frustrations about the egregious conditions, the barriers to learning, and the limitations of the No Child Left Behind curricula, which they are forced to tutor.  Nearly every one of these students will admit that the likelihood that his or her “little”, “buddy” or student will never see graduation day is almost certain.  Volunteer Gail Sondermeyer explains the problem: “kids had homework, but they also had these big packets for No Child Left Behind testing…they never really had the chance to do their homework for class, because teachers insisted that the packets always came first.”
Sondermeyer points to a common phenomenon occurring in public schools across the nation, in which teachers are forced to “teach to the test”, and in turn, experience a lessened ability to develop interesting, engaging curricula, due to restrictions and demands to meet for annual tests.  In Philadelphia, students spend an average of three weeks taking these federal exams, while schools are forced to spend excessive administrative funds on test coordinators and proctors.  How much of this spending does the government actually cover?  Less than half.  Public schools, already suffering from financial disability are forced to dig even deeper in their pockets to meet the standards of No Child Left Behind, a program which has not yet proven effective.

The one-size-fits-all approach to standardization encourages education through rote memorization and focuses on testing instead of investing.  In fact, approaches to teaching in public schools have begun to mirror the commonly used, rigorous approaches of penal institutions and even the military.  Teachers, of course, bear the burden of such implementation, and have little room for creativity.  The effects of such methods on teacher burnout are telling: half the teachers hired in inner-city public schools quit within their first five years.  In turn, the most inexperienced teachers are left to deal with the most difficult educational challenges and the most serious problem students.  These are the students who suffer from unbending educational policies, who attempt to learn in an environment where meeting a standard takes precedence over engaging students in the learning process, and where resources are so limited that even reading is made nearly impossible.  Indeed, in 2006, all 50 states failed to meet the benchmark for proficiency.  What is the trajectory for No Child Left Behind?  Are we looking at the beginnings of an end for the entire United States public school system?

Where resources are depleted and attention to school problems diminish annually, the public schools of the inner cities of the United States face a serious dilemma.  Where fewer students have the opportunity to succeed, and more leave high school with an inadequate education, the future generations of the United States will suffer severely from the current public school crisis.  The only promise of our current policies is a growing gap in educational attainment, between public turmoil and private affluence, in which only the privileged will have the opportunity to succeed in school.

 

By
Amy Richards
Re:LIFE Inc Writer

 

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

Criminal Justice Inequality in America: The Destruction of the African American Male

Crime has fallen, but incarcerations across the country still soar, making imprisonment for young African American men a fact of life.  As Harvard Sociologist Bruce Western suggests, societal inequalities generally seem to us natural, legitimate or fixed.  Much of the inequality relies on our society’s perception of young African American male high school dropouts as a problematic societal sub-group.  This perception is perhaps the primary obstacle in addressing inequality in the United States: our complacency with it.
Western suggests that we are living in an era of mass imprisonment that has transformed a generation of young black men who make up the mainstay of the permanently disadvantaged population in American society.  The effect of imprisonment on social and economic inequality demands our immediate attention.
Only 0.1% of the population in Western Europe is incarcerated.  In the U.S., about 700 per 100,000 people are in jail, an entire order of magnitude greater than that of Europe’s population.  From the 1920’s through most of 20th century, imprisonment in the U.S. was relatively stable, and comparable Western Europe’s rates today.  However, from the mid-70’s on, the penal system grew stricter and the threshold for imprisonment was lowered: about 7 million people have since been brought under police supervision.
As large as these figures are, the volume of prisoners is not the most telling statistic.  Instead, we must look more closely incarceration rates for particular sub-groups that include race and educational background.  In the past decade, one third of all young black men who were also high school dropouts, were behind bars, a statistic hugely inconsistent with the rest of society.  In 1999, 41 percent of all black male high school dropouts aged 22-30 were in prison or jail.  In fact, prison time is a more common transition stage for young black males today than college.  Nothing distinguishes African Americans from whites like the difference in rates of incarceration (about 8 to 1).

Prison confers an enduring status that causes diminished opportunities for those who are previously incarcerated.  One effect of the overwhelming rate of incarceration on society is increased inequality of opportunities for prisoners when they leave, both in pay and employment in general.  Incarceration may reduce human capital (lost work experience, diminished skills), erode social ties/relationships to legitimate employment and confer a stigma that repels employers (civil disabilities too).  Ex-prisoners are then subject to high risk of unemployment, little prospect for wage growth, day labor, few to no benefits and decreased job security.  The stigma with which a convict is forced to live then subjects him to subsistence “at the margins of the labor market… precarious employment in low-wage jobs”.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is the effect that the incarcerated males have on the next generation, on their children, who grow up without father figures, while their fathers wait in jail.  One third of African American youth born in 1990, have experienced the absence of a father who was incarcerated.  Imprisonment has therefore become a normal event for young black men with little schooling.  By sharpening the lines of social exclusion, mass imprisonment has reduced the extent of American citizenship and produced a profound transformation of American race relations in the post-Civil Rights period.  Through its effects on economic status and mobility (and families too), mass incarceration has become self-sustaining.

An entire group of our population has become entrenched in a cycle of poverty and diminished life opportunities at the hands of the penal system.  By maintaining this unforgiving criminal justice system, we effectively perpetuate the marginalized status of an entire population of young black men, a group of men who would otherwise have the chance to act as role models and breadwinners for families and communities.  By diminishing ex-prisoners’ life opportunities, society maintains an underclass that is unable to gain a foothold through a fair paying job, that would allow them to begin on a prosocial life path.  The United States has, in effect, decided that this group does not deserve access to jobs or the other legitimate means by which they might reenter mainstream society.

While the criminal justice system is founded on the ideal of safety and security, it has a latent function as well.  It acts as a means of social control that generates inequality, while essentially doing away with what many view as a potentially problematic group of idle young, African American males.  When such a huge disparity exists between the actual trends in crime and the soaring incarceration rates, it is obvious that the criminal justice system no longer acts solely in the name of public safety.

*Statistics in this article are based on a 2009 lecture given by Harvard Sociologist Bruce Western at Villanova University

 
By
Amy Richards, BA
Re:LIFE Inc Blogger

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Unemployment in Minority Communities: Shocking Facts About Unemployment Rates

The nation’s economic crisis began in December 2007 and since then countless people have been laid off from their jobs, and are dealing with the daunting effects of this recession. Although the state of the economy affects everyone in one way or another, minority communities have been hit harder than the rest of the nation. White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, called the minority unemployment rate “shockingly and totally unacceptably high.”

Here are 5 shocking facts many people probably do not know about unemployment rates:

  1. As of September 2010, the white unemployment rate is 8.7%, the Hispanic unemployment rate is 12.4% and the black unemployment rate is 16.1%.
  2. The black unemployment rate has steadily risen every year since 2008 and jumped recently from 11.2% to 15.9% in 2010. At the same time, however, the white unemployment rate has actually diminished. In 2008, it was 8.6%, but fell to 8.3% by 2010.
  3. There are 2.3 million people in jail that are not accounted for in the national unemployment statistics and studies found that incarceration depresses the total earnings of white males by 2%, Hispanics by 6% and blacks by 9% upon their release.
  4. As HuffPost’s William Alden reported: “Among lenders that went bankrupt in 2007, blacks were three times more likely than whites to receive subprime loans.”
  5. The unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older is 7.8% as of August 2010. For white male college graduates, it is 4.4%.

In New York, minority based communities such as Harlem have consistently been hit very hard by the recession. Unemployment rates in certain Harlem districts were as high as 18% whereas the unemployment rates of whites in Upper Manhattan is between 4-5%. 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—factors that plague the Harlem community and hinder the reengagement of disconnected youth. There are also very few programs available to disconnected youth that utilize a combined education and workforce development approach.

The economic pain among minorities signals structural problems in employment opportunities such as labor market discrimination. In light of this, one reason for the high economic rates in minority communities is because little has been done to improve the inequalities of the economic experience between whites and minorities. Inequality also affects educated minorities—the unemployment rate for African American college graduates, for example, grew by 2.4% more than it did for whites and 0.4% more for Hispanics. Although the government has invested millions of dollars in creating jobs and spurring economic growth, more funds are needed to benefit minority groups who will continue to be out of work. Also, since the stimulus is designed to create jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries, training programs must be available to minorities to ensure that they can take advantage of these opportunities.

Source
http://tinyurl.com/3s4y7s3;
http://tinyurl.com/3uvhrcz
by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

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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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Transitioning into Disconnection: The Need To Reevaluate America’s Foster-Care System

Aging out of the foster care system without being properly equipped for survival is one cause for youth disconnection. Approximately 29,000 youths are released from foster care every year at the age of 18. Foster care youth do not have personal assets or financial savings to rely on once they have left the foster care system. This makes it extremely difficult to secure housing or withstand the effects of unforeseen problems in their personal lives or with the economy. Additionally, unlike other teenagers these youth do not have a network of family and friends which they can turn to for assistance. They are completely on their own and thus, susceptible to a number of problems.

Released foster youth are also forced to grow up faster than ordinary youth because they do not have the emotional and financial support one needs when things suddenly go wrong in life. They must quickly muster the responsibility, diligence, and patience necessary to cope with all of the “adult battles” they will face once released from the foster care system. Without the necessary aid and proper transitioning training, these youths may fall prey to homelessness, unemployment, mental illness, criminality, substance abuse, along with several other problems.

The principal program designed to support youth during their transition from foster care to living independently is the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999. It provides about $140 million in funding every year for mental health services, mentoring, employment preparation, educational aid, stipends for housing, and extended Medicaid eligibility. Although this bill looks promising, it is severely limited. Only two-fifths of youth receive independent living services and availability varies widely from state to state. Also, although the budget is a large sum of money, it only translates to about $1,000 per youth, which is barely enough to afford decent housing conditions. A bill recently signed into effect, the Fostering Connections to Success Act, is better able to provide the funding these youth need. Unfortunately—and unwisely—states are not mandated to utilize this funding and many have actually chosen to discontinue foster care benefits when the youth is released.

It has been discovered that released youth who receive foster care benefits until the age of 21 have a greater chance of avoiding the challenges of transitioning from foster care to living independently. Clark Peters, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri’s School of Social Work, believes that all states should extend foster care benefits. According to his research, “Foster youth who continue to receive benefits through age 21 have improved outcomes including a greater likelihood of attending college and achieving financial stability.”

In his study, Peters also found that having the benefits of continued care outweighed the costs of not having it by 2 to 1. In other words, youth that receive the aid have more opportunities to make effective changes to living independently and as a result, they utilize fewer governmental benefits later in life and have higher incomes (resulting in more tax revenue for state and federal governments). Therefore, there is real incentive on the governments’ part to extend these benefits—not only is it advantageous for the foster care youth but also for the society as a whole.

Obviously states do not realize the implications of allowing foster youth to receive their aid. Nonetheless, there are a number of non-government supported programs in the United States that are dedicated to helping released youth make a successful transition out of the foster care system. Their endeavors, however, would be a little less challenging if more states were willing to extend foster care benefits.

Sources:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110203141826.htm;
http://www.transad.pop.upenn.edu/downloads/courtney–foster%20care.pdf
 
by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

Edited by Chike Ukaegbu

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Community Outreach Programs: Touching Youth Lives through Intervention

They groan when told its bedtime, slam doors when mom says “no,” argue when someone disagrees with their ideas, and fight strongly for what they believe in. I think most of us can agree on the fact that generally youth are stubborn. Some are more likely to stir up tension than comply nicely with what is being asked or even given to them—a natural rebellion that accompanies this period in life.  Does this generalization apply, however, to youth that do not have the luxury of having two caring parents, a home to live in, or even something to fight for.  A study conducted by researchers at John Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy found that youth usually perceive community outreach workers positively, whether or not they have personally worked with one.

Community outreach workers are people who try to prevent conflict among the members of the community and, in some circumstances, provide necessary services to individuals such as housing, health care, and job training.  Community outreach programs exist in all of the United States, especially concentrated in urban cities.  In most cases they serve as a strategy to connect at-risk youth to beneficial services and prevent gang-related violence.

Re:LIFE Inc., for example, is a community-based youth development organization established in Harlem. It focuses on the provision of the needed training, opportunities, motivation and relevant life skills necessary for the proper grooming of educationally, socially and fiscally responsible youth in New York City. It is not uncommon for people to be reluctant to seek help when they find themselves in an uncomfortable, and sometimes perceived as embarrassing, situation such as unemployment. The same can be said of young people due to their stubborn tendencies. Before this study, little was known about how these programs and workers are actually perceived by youth within the communities they serve, especially those who have not worked with them personally.

Researchers surveyed 159 individuals ages 13 to 23 in Lowell, Massachusetts to evaluate their perceptions of local community outreach workers. The workers were from an organization called The United Teen Equality Center (UTEC). It was established in 1999 in response to local gang violence. Sixty-three percent of the survey’s participants indicated that they know first-hand of fights which the workers intervened in or prevented. Eighty-two percent of the respondents who participated in the worker-led mediation activities said their conflicts had successfully been resolved. Keshia Pollack, an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, stated that “even youth who haven’t directly benefited from working one-on-one with street outreach workers are telling us their presence makes their own community a better place.”

The participants were also asked about their employment, education, and health care needs. Approximately sixty percent responded that they needed assistance finding and securing a job; one-third required help with writing a resume; and over fifty percent stated that they could not have connected with the services they needed without the help of the outreach workers. “Young people have needs beyond conflict resolution strategies, and it is important that communities consider this point when thinking about how best to keep their young people moving in the right direction. At the end of the day, teens know that the factors necessary for a successful transition to adulthood include education, employment, and health care,” said researcher Shannon Frattaroli.

Regardless of their rebellious tendencies, youth understand the importance of community outreach programs and gravitate towards them. Support for these workers and programs should definitely be encouraged because our communities are a better place as a result of their work.

Source:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101208125807.htm
Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

Edited by Chike Ukaegbu

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Protecting Today’s Youth: Should The Homeless Also Be Hopeless?

Many of us are conditioned to be afraid of homeless people. As you examine the man behind the filthy clothes, the excruciating stench, and the unshaven face, your mind unwillingly bombards you with stereotypes. They may be deranged drug-addicts who might harm you if you look at them in a peculiar way. Or perhaps they are criminals who will rob you if you make any movement towards your wallet. These kinds of thoughts might even be exaggerated when faced with a homeless person of a particularly young age. Homeless youths tend to have a “thuggish” appearance and are often perceived as delinquent and dangerous.

Statistics

Ironically, the same people we are habituated to fear have a greater risk than the general population of being victims of crimes themselves. A report released by researchers at York University and the University of Guelph states that ‘approximately seventy-six percent of homeless youths were victims of crime during the year 2009’. The study, conducted at agencies serving youths in downtown Toronto and the suburbs, also mentions that ‘three-quarters of the surveyed youths reported multiple incidents of being abused.  In comparison, ‘approximately forty percent of young people in the general population testified to being victimized and the severity of their cases was relatively low’. They reported experiencing property crime whereas homeless youths are usually the victims of violent crimes. Stephen Gaetz, one of the researchers who conducted the survey expressed that “many people, including policy makers, believe that youth homelessness and crime are linked, and they use laws such as the Safe Streets Act to ‘move along’ young people. In fact, our findings show that young homeless people are among the most victimized people in our society, and they need our protection.”

Causes

The first step, it seems, to addressing this issue is to recognize that homelessness is not always due to negligence and reckless behavior. Economic factors are the primary reason why people become homeless. With youths, however, there are a number of things that might cause this to occur such as dropping out of school, aging out of the foster care system, poverty, early parenthood, etc. A number of these young people do not have anywhere in which to turn.

During the study, it was also exposed that youths who had become homeless at the age of sixteen or seventeen were much more likely to have been violently victimized than young people who became homeless at a later age. Homeless youth victimization is an inexcusable and overlooked phenomenon which should not be muddled by societal stereotypes of disconnected young people and what they might be capable of. There are a number of agencies in the United States dedicated to serving children and young adults because they are the most impressionable and vulnerable members of our society. When lawmakers pledge to work for the public good of the constituents of their states, that oath should encompass even those who sleep on benches.

Solutions

Therefore, rather than finding methods to “move them along,” we need to attempt to resolve the underlying issues as well as to discover positive ways to get these young people off the streets. There needs to be a balance of preventive measures and emergency response to keep youth from being victimized, and support programs to help them out of homelessness and into productive environments. This is what Re:LIFE aims to do. (Visit Re:LIFE Inc’s Website to learn more about the different things we do to better youth lives)

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100927105203.htm

 

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

 

 

Edited by Chike Ukaegbu

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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
Like our Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/hewFET
Follow us on Twitter: Relifeinc
Add us on LinkedIn: Re:LIFE Incorporated

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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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