Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Western States 100 is one of the, if not THE, most prestigious ultra race out there. The route actually came forth from a horse route in 1955, to prove horses could cover 100 miles in a single day, with the route traveling from Squaw Valley to Auburn, CA (later became the Tevis Cup). In 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh decided to prove a human could cover 100 miles in a day…which he did in 23 hours and 42 minutes. From there came the Western States 100 trail race.
(On a side note, I’m am wondering why the race is called Western StateS, when it only goes through one State?)
Anyway, this is basically the Boston Marathon of ultra runners. (Though when I was running it, I was thinking “it’s just another 100 mile run”)
I remember thinking a few years back that this is a race I wanted to run. The landscape is that of huge climbs through mountains, lots of tree coverage, and beautiful scenery. Quite ideal, I’d say. When Sandi got the opportunity to go, I was a tad bit jealous (hard not to be…everyone else has to go through the lottery and cross their fingers, year after year!), but that quickly faded into happiness…she deserved it, and she thrives off this kind of stuff. Plus, I asked me to pace her, which is truly an honor! I am also extremely thankful to Steve, because without him, I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to make the trip. However, he too really wanted to come out to help crew and support Sandi and Shaun (and pace Shaun for 38).
Friday, me and Steve picked up Shaun’s brother Ryan from the airport in Reno so Sandi and Shaun could take their time and the pre-race meeting. Here, I really have to give a huge thanks to Ryan. He is not a runner. He thinks all of us ultra runners are crazy (which may be true). And he never complained. He stayed up all night crewing for us, driving around CA to get aid station to aid station, then waiting for our butts to get there. He must have been exhausted. Also, today (6/27) is his birthday, so Happy Birthday Ryan!
That evening, we all met at La Pie (or something like that) in Truckee, a very cute little old town, to carb up on pasta (it wasn’t bad…but nothing special). After that, we all went back to our hotels to rest up for the following day. (Truckee is only about 15-20 minutes from the race start, and much cheaper than staying right by the start, and also is a nice place to walk around). I was mostly worried about Sandi, who started yawning at dinner and barely had any real rest during the 2 weeks where she had been working 14-16 hour days for Teach for America.
Me and Steve drove to the start in Squaw Valley…it was really neat as the Olympics were once held there, and we drove past the Olympic torch. We got there around 4:15, and it was chilly! Once inside I called Sandi…she and Shaun were of course still on their way, so I wanted around inside…I have not gotten called Sandi so many times since I was in grade school! I was asked “are you ready?”, “where’s Shaun?”, and had to explain that I was Sandi’s twin…and for the day, I was perfectly fine with simply being “Sandi’s twin”. After a few minutes, Sandi and Shaun appeared and picked up their registration and bibs (they got lost going to the meeting on Friday and missed check-in).
As everyone was waiting around I got to meet quite a few cool people (some of them simply because they thought I was Sandi). There were fellow Animal Camp members: Joe Kulak (finished in 19:44), Dan Rosenberg (finished in 24:56), and Tim Ellis who was crewing. He helped keep me sane later on! Then there was my friend Jose, who I had never met in person, just through Facebook, always sharing his enthusiasm and encouragement. He was just as nice as I had expected! Then there was Jimmy Dean, who I only briefly knew from Oil Creek last year. He was there crewing/pacing a friend. He has so much positive energy to share with everyone, it’s no wonder why he so popular (besides being a great runner) and everyone likes him. Hopefully he will be back at OC this year! I also got to meet Killian. He commented on my huaraches* that I got from my friend Laurie Colon, who was nice enough to get them for me when went to run the Copper Canyon 50 in Mexico. He was very nice, and a bit shy. He was actually just sitting around by himself, just waiting for the race to start. It was nice to see such an amazing athlete so humble. Me and Sandi should have placed bets with our boyfriends, as he was our pick to win…which he did.
(* I know the Tarahumara run in huaraches…but I do not recommend this. They grew up with these shoes…we did not. Also, I do not recommend wearing them to walk around in, unless you have done so comfortably before.)
Finally it was time to start, so I gave Sandi a hug and wished her and Shaun the best. Me and Steve then walked part way up the first hill/mountain to see the runners as they ran/hiked pass once the gun went off. Then, we shuffled back to our car and then back to our hotel to grab a few more hours of sleep. Normally, this doesn’t happen…we have to drive to the next aid station. But, because of the course changes, there was no crew access until mile 55! That sucked, but then again I think the extra sleep was quite helpful. Plus, W.S has a live tracking system to follow your runner…which is a great idea unless this chip screws up or they miss checking off your runner at the aid station…which they mess up twice on for Sandi (I was a bit stressed during those times).
A little after 10 am, we were off to drive to Michigan’s Bluff! We got there early enough to see Killian and the top runners go past…some stone faced…others smiling. Really, it was the women who were smiling…most of them still looked fresh! As we were waiting around, we snacked on sandwiches we had picked up at the deli (they put mustard and mayonnaise on mine, which I did not order and DO NOT like!, so mine was greatly reduced). I also made friends with a little dog, who was wandering around…he was not a huge fan of bread or onions, but enjoyed Swiss cheese). Shaun came in looking well, but wasn’t eating the solids he needed to. We sent him off with encouragement that this would be the last really tough section (I simply know this from what I’ve been told, but 62-100 weren’t exactly easy) and that Steve would be waiting for him at 62. Little did we know the he would soon get lost for over an hour! That has to be a so tough mentally to recover from that. After that, Steve and Ryan left to meet Shaun at Foresthill, and I was left to wait for Sandi, so I laid down for awhile in the grass. Insert anxiety here. They messed up Sandi’s chip time again!!!! I was getting texts that Sandi had already past, and Tim (TAC) came up to me as well, so I checked the communication tents. At first, they said “yes, 28 (Sandi’s #) had passed…how could I miss my sister!?!? Then, we found a mistake in the chart online…it said she had done the last section in 4:02 min…quite impossible unless you’re a bird. Mrs. Pope then called me and my nerves settled a bit, except for the fact that I knew Sandi should have come through by now, and I expected something was wrong. Tim then started talking to me for a while, which helped get my mind off things and got me updated on TAC members. Then, I was finally talked in to buying lemonade from little girls who continually walked among us asking if we would like a glass…I had to give them credit, they were working hard and I admired them for not being afraid to go up to complete stranger to ask. (It was pretty smart to, to set up amongst a ton of crew member on hot, sunny afternoon).
It was a little after 5 when I hear “28 is coming down the hill to Michigan Bluff” and I excited jumped up to see my sister running down the hill. However, when she looked me in the eye I knew something was wrong. I met her just after the food tents, and she was nearly in tears. Her TFA training had taken its toll, and she was exhausted. She explained to me that she had never felt good since the beginning, and was just plain tired. Have stomach issues didn’t help either. A doctor came to talk to her, and a few very nice people were trying to give words of encouragement…which was very nice of them, I was just annoyed for Sandi because they were talking to her like she was a newbie…I wanted to yell “she’s won two 100!” I sent Sandi off for the next 6 miles with some not so helpful words of encouragement, and told her she needed to pass the 2 old guys (had to be blunt here) in front of her.
I then to the bus back up the hill to my car, and drove the rental back up the weaving hill to the main road, which was terrifying, but I made it. At Foresthill, I picked up my pacer bib and found my friend Star to wait for Sandi to come it. We chatted for a bit and she updated me on how our friends were doing, before she tried to take a nap to prepare for her pacing duties. I was about to do the same, when I see Sandi coming down the trail, much faster than I had expected. So up me and Star got to walk down the road with her. We started running again when we got to the trail at a slow but steady pace, but Sandi’s stomach was really bothering her. After 3 more miles we made it to the next aid station, but things were going downhill (figuratively speaking, as the course was not). And from there on, mile 65-80, we walked.
For parts of it we chatted, mostly me talking about random things, mainly just because I felt like talking. Once in awhile I asked her if we could run intervals or how she was feeling, which got little more than a grunt, so I stopped doing that one. Then we just went on in silence. I know a lot of runners just like to talk, be me and Sandi can comfortable just run in silence, and I knew she was dealing with the demons in her. She had to do that herself, and I couldn’t help her. One or two times me and Sandi paused at a clearing to see river and mountains across and gasped “amazing”. Darkness set in, and mosquitoes decided to have a snack on my back. Sandi’s headlamp and the handheld I just bought quickly dimmed and we were left with my bright headlamp, which did not help the headache I was already beginning to acquire. We just kept walking on, and got passed by quite a few people. I’m going to be honest…that was weird. I had never experienced that before when running with Sandi, and it just didn’t feel right. When we were walking, a gentleman passed us, whom we soon re-passed as we hike up the hil—even at her worst, Sandi still knows how to climb a hill. I felt weird walking in silence, so I asked him how he was doing. I was slightly offended when I got no reply back. As we got further ahead, Sandi told me he was from another country…whoops. I took a mental note of that for future races.
Finally, we climbed up another large hill to Rucky Chucky Aid Station 1, and Sandi was about to take off her trail shoes. She sat in a chair, took in some real food and ibuprofen, and attempted to rationalize dropping with me and some of the aid station volunteers. She explained she had been having ankle problems in the same spot that had forced her to put the end of Run Across Ohio on hold. It was bruised, but the medic said she would be able to walk on it and be able to make it to the race finish, just not too sit for fear of tightening up. Sandi told us that she didn’t want to over-injure herself so she could be up and running within a short time period. I told her I understood, but with TFA, she didn’t have much time to train anyway, plus, she had been walking well for the past 15 miles. Mainly, I didn’t want her to use this as an excuse. I knew she could do it…plus, this was Western States. While I’m sure she will be back again, this is the type of race where you just have to keep pushing. She needed this mental battle. I’m 100% this will make her stronger. I told her we had to cross the river anyway, so we took a raft across the river (normally, you wade across this section, but with all the snow the water was too high). We had a nice gentleman name Carson row us quickly to the other side. We took some more aid, I popped a few ibuprofens for my headaches, and we climbed the jeep trail another 1.9 miles (or something like that) to the aid station at mile 80. Finally, they had a port-a- potty! (Normally, the side of the trail is just fine, but that doesn’t work so well on a jeep trail when many other people are nearby.)
After we walked pass the tent, Sandi declared “I’m going to try to run”. She didn’t know how long it was going to last, but hell, she was going to try.
From there, we ran. We ran from mile 80, on flat sections, downhill, and uphill. We ran for 20 miles.
Now, being a pacer, walking for 15 miles, and listening to her talk about her ankle injury, I had put it into my mind that we would be walking all night and most of the morning to the finish. I had to quickly readjust my mindset. The real food she had consumed (lots of soup, and goodies at the aid station) gave her a burst of energy, and she wanted to ride out what the ibuprofen gave her. My headache actually vanished too, although I did end up carrying my headlamp like a flashlight the rest of the way. Anyway, my legs loosened up, and I began to enjoy the run (only worrying here and there that she was going to drop me…that girl can run technical downhills!).
What I witnessed here, and had the honor of doing so firsthand, was one of the most amazing feats of athleticism and overcoming adversity I have ever witnessed. We didn’t just do the ultra runner’s shuffle…we were moving at a good pace. Most of you have seen Sandi’s tattoo that reads “Silently Strong”. This could be a little confusing to some, but if you saw her run, you would understand it completely. She ran so smoothly, so silently, with quiet determination on her face. She had beat the demons in her head, telling her she was tired, she was hurt, to stop. At mile 81, Sandi glanced at her watch, and she decided to break 24 hours.
We were way behind the times for a predicted 24 hour finish, but that didn’t matter. We blew past people who had easily passed up hours before, amazed at this girl running uphill with ease. It felt right. There was one place where we running a long side a ledge where I remember thinking “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall.” After a few miles that turned in to “Please God, just let me get her to the next aid station.” I fell shortly after that. We arrived at Highway 49 Aid Station (mile 93.5) at 3:26 and were met my Steve and Ryan. Sandi simply asked Steve “how run-able is this section?” before we again took off. I glanced at a sign the read the check-point times for 24 hours, which read: 3:10. We were behind by 16 minutes. I didn’t tell Sandi, she knew it would be close, and I knew she could make it, we just couldn’t stop.
Of course, there was some more climbing involved on a rocky section, but we covered it briskly and ran the moment we could. We reached No Hands Bridge, where there was a huge movie screen (but I had no time to look. We went right through, but Sandi had to take a gel to hold her over the next 3 miles. There was a short towpath section where we passed a few more people. Then another climb. I fell, again. Sandi slowed down and I yelled at her to go (what was she thinking!?) . She began to reply but I quickly got up and caught her. (I didn’t not want her to drop me like she did at Mohican…I wanted to see her finish!) A few people tried to hand on to us, knowing we were out to beat the cut-off. We urged them on, but Sandi’s pace was too much for them. There was one woman in particular who I knew was hurting bad. We saw her right before the last aid station at 98.9 (I don’t get it either). Her pacer was amazing. She was giving her so much encouragement, pushing her runner “I know this hurts, but believe me, it will be worth it!” We told them we would see them before the clock hit 24*.
I figured at that last aid station when we hit the road it would be flat. HA! We powered up that stupid, long hill. Seriously, we flew up that thing. We were told simply to follow the orange footsteps up the road to the finish at the track. The footprints we not very visible in the dark, and the road was not straight. Luckily, a few of the other runners we ran past guided us through. A few people walking back to their cars shouted us encouragement, a bit shocked by our speed. Seriously…we may as well have been doing a tempo workout.
Then we saw it. There was the entrance to the track. Sandi was going to make the 24 cut-off…with time to spare. Before I left her to finish the 300 meters on the track by herself, I told her “I’m more proud of you than if you won this race.” I am. She had never before entered a race in that position before, so exhausted and sick, or over-came so much self-doubt.
With that, I ran across the field to meet her once she crossed the finish. Shaun, Steve, and Ryan were there too. I was crying, overwhelmed with joy of what she had accomplished (and tired…she made me work!). Poor Shaun was standing there too (he did awesome as well, coming in at 20:29), with his arms out ready to hug her, but and 23:52:30, she crossed the finish line, and at 23:52:31, we was giving me a hug. I will forever remember that moment. (Shaun got his hug right after).
(*The woman we saw struggling at 98.5 finished at 23:59:44)
Monday, June 6, 2011
Child Poverty: The End to Poverty Begins with the Young
The problem with poverty is just not in definition itself. It is not just the fact that a person has a low income. The problem is that poverty is the root of many problems in various areas of today’s world and affects nearly everyone. Poverty issues deal with poor health and nutrition, weak family structure, and substandard neighborhoods. Many of these problems occur in urban areas where there is a permanent underclass that “suffer from high rates of unemployment, alcoholism, drug addiction, illiteracy, juvenile delinquency, and crime”. These areas see deteriorating schools and a lack in services such as police and fire stations, as well as health care facilities (Rubenstien, 2008, p. 449). It also takes a psychological toll on a person and leads to a “culture of poverty”, a “view that lower-class people form a separate culture with their own values and norms, which are sometimes in conflict with conventional society” (Siegel, Welsh, Senna, 2006, p.108). This stops a person from believing that he or she can ever overcome poverty, and in actuality, it is very hard to do so. In the end, it becomes the children who are hurt the most by poverty. They become victims of it. In fact, in 2007, 18% of children 18 and under lived in poverty (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007, p.3). Growing up, all these children see is poverty. It surrounds them in their homes and by their parents’ attitudes and actions, as well as in their communities. Poverty becomes a cycle, in which few are able to escape.
From birth, parents are usually the main influence a child has in his or her life. Parents instill their beliefs, values, and morals in a child. Much of what children learn come from the actions of their parents, and it is no different in poverty stricken households. The passing on of poverty related circumstances creates the pattern of poverty which is one of the factors that keeps poverty from diminishing. Under this category falls two main problems, teen pregnancy and single parent families, and often they go hand in hand.
In an essay by Carol Mendez Cassell, she states that “poverty is the single biggest determinant of pregnancy among teens” (Edwards, Crain, Kalleberg, 2007, p.205). She goes on to talk about the link between young teen mothers and the number of children living in poverty. Poverty not only can result in early parenthood but become a cause of a mother and her child living poorly. While in recent years teen pregnancy has been on a downhill pattern, recent statistics still show that nearly 850,000 teenaged American girls, that is one out of three, get pregnant each year (Edwards, Crain, Kalleberg, 2007, p.205). 80% of these pregnancies are unintended (Edwards, Crain, Kalleberg, 2007, p.205). There are several reasons why pregnancy rates among adolescent girls who come from low-income homes are higher than those who come from high-income homes, other than the fact that well-off teens can afford abortion. One reason is that there is a lack of social and economic opportunities, like good schools, safe housing, and job opportunities, which would lead to a better life to teens and give them reason to delay pregnancy. Without the promise of a successful future, teens do not see a point in postponing parenthood and having a child only limits their life options. It makes any chance at higher education, well-paid career, and chance of getting out of poverty even harder. Also important to note is that many teen mothers come from homes where their moms also gave birth at a young age. Some teens also become pregnant because of neglect they felt in their own homes, and find comfort in their relationship with their sexual partner and with the baby. More times than not, the father also comes from a low-income neighborhood and has little money and cannot offer in terms of child support (Edwards, Crain, Kalleberg, 2007, p.206). Regardless, many of the fathers do not even bother to stick around. These “deadbeat dads” are rarely tracked down to even pay child support (Rubenstein, 2007, p.450).
This leads to the problem of single parent families. The majority of inner city children, 80%, live with only one parent (Rubenstein, 2007, p.450). Most single parent families are headed by the mother. Another statistic shows that in 2006, 42% of female-householder families lived in poverty. The combination of poverty and a single-parent family can have a dramatic effect on a child. These types of families live in communities that are often not child-friendly. The kids grow up in areas surrounded by crime, drugs, and violence. Child-care services are often inadequate. This forces the parent to decide whether to stay at home and take care of the child, or try to work and supply to the other family needs (Rubenstein, 2007, p.450). A specific example is of a pregnant teen in high school, who is less likely to graduate from her peers. This causes the problem of her ever finding a well-paid job (Edwards, Crain, Kalleberg, 2007, p.207). The working parent still can not afford good health care and proper nutrition for the children, leading to chronic health problems. Those who make enough to put them above the poverty line do not receive government assistance, despite the fact that they can not provide a secure environment for their family.
This can lead to emotional and behavioral problems in the child. First off, a child living with only one parent will miss out on the male of female guidance of the missing parent. If the child is often left alone because of a working parent, they may feel neglected. They may learn how to “fend for their own” and build up their own defense mechanisms that may be destructive because they did not have proper parental guidance. Instead, they learned from an un-nurturing neighborhood. The child will not learn the normal values and attitudes of society. Broken homes also often lead to anti-social behavior in a child, putting them even more at risk to turn to delinquent behavior. Other problems children face more often when growing up in poverty-stricken homes include witnessing violence, or family conflict, and abuse, which may lead towards feeling of hostility of low self-esteem. (Siegel, Welsh, Senna, 2006, p.202-210)
The next problem child poverty leads to is education, which is also affected by family influences. Adolescents from low income families face numerous difficulties in school. The first set of problems deal with their home lives. Looking back at single-parent households, trouble arises when that parent’s educational experience was limited. Unstable families also have tendencies to move around a lot, causing the children to attempt to adapt to different schools. The home environment may also be very chaotic, especially for older children forced to take care of their siblings while the parent is at work. This all prevents a child from being productive in their studies and getting homework done. Any health related issues that may be caused by malnutrition poses difficulties as well, either causing an adolescent to miss school or making it difficult to concentrate. (Gilbert, 2008, p. 51)
The second set of difficulties of education for young people living in poverty deals with the schools themselves. Many schools in the United States get the majority of their funding from local property taxes. Considering that fact, schools in rich areas will have a strong environment, with new materials, a wide-array of extracurricular activities, and students who are well-prepared by educated parents. Conversely, schools in poor areas are located in rough neighborhoods, have less than appealing classrooms, sometimes falling apart, and shabby or even out of date materials. Extracurricular activities mean more money, and therefore not much of an option for students. This leaves a child feeling unmotivated to go to schools, feeling as worthless as their surroundings, and open to any possibilities the streets leave for them. (Gilbert, 2008, p.51)
The end result is an education stand still. Academic progress equivalent to their richer peers is extremely difficult to achieve. In the end, 21% of students 16-24 dropped out of high school in 2001 from the lowest income quartile, compared to 4% in the highest income quartile That means poor students are 5 times more likely to drop out then rich students (Karelis, 2007, p.17)!
In the education process, the next step after high school is college. There are already 21% of poor young adults who won’t make it as they already dropped out of high school. For the rest, it is still often considered to be an unrealistic dream, if it is ever a dream at all. In the article Setting Kids’ Sight on College, Chris Burns-DiBiasio, a previous Wilmington school board member, she states that many underprivileged kids have already eliminated the possibility of college by the time they reach middle school. To explain why, he says “They come from families either say, ‘We can’t afford it,’ or, ‘That isn’t what this family does.’ Or someone has already told them they aren’t good enough for college” (Schultz, 2009). In many cases, the child’s parents have had limited schooling and have no clue about the college process and how to get their child there. Few have ever heard of FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and believe that affording college is a complete impossibility (Schultz, 2009). Unfortunately, they are not completely wrong. College tuition keeps rising, but financial aid has not kept up. In 2005, the main type of federal assistance for low income students, Pell grants, only covered 34% of college costs. When the rest of the 66% of the cost is considered, it is much more practical the family to put it towards survival needs (Gilbert, 2008, p.55-56).
This leads to a major consequence. College is now considered to be the ticket to the middle class. However, as more and more upper class young adults attend college, fewer and fewer poor young adults do (Gilbert, 2008, p.56). So they cycle of poverty continues. Without a college degree, the poor continue to only get minimum wage jobs that provide them with only enough to survive and little chance towards advancement out of poverty.
It is clear that family, education, and a child’s environment all play major factors in keeping a person in poverty. More poverty is not the only result of these hardships. Juvenile delinquency is also a key result of poverty. That is not to say all juvenile crimes are committed by lower class kids. Rich and middle class kids still have their share of problems in the juvenile system. Still, research shows that poverty does play an influential role of juvenile delinquents who come from poor neighborhoods. Tom Connors, an assistant professor of justice studies at North Carolina Wesleyan College states that “although everyone is born with a potential for violence, violent behavior is learned and reinforced by the influences of a child’s family and environment, such as poor, gang-infested neighborhoods where guns and drugs are plentiful” (Connors, 2000). In accordance with Connors, Mike Males, a sociology instructor and a senior researcher with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice at the University of California, Santa Cruz , claims that “most violent juvenile crime occurs in communities where the average income is below the United States poverty level” (Males, 2000). The question now is why juvenile delinquency is highest in poverty stricken areas.
One theory goes back to the American Dream, a dream the measure success by material wealth. With that in mind, youths who lack material wealth may use crime as a way to achieve their goals (Siegel, Welsh, Senna, 2006, p. 42). Concurrently, Gilbert Geiss, a criminologist, explains that we live in a society of wealth. If that wealth goes unattained, a person’s self-esteem is lowered (Males, Docuyanan, 1996). A specific example of how poverty is tied to juvenile delinquency is found in Los Angeles County, where in 1996, 200,000 impoverished adolescents lived. The county was home to one in fifteen adolescent murderers in the United States. In 1994, L.A. County held 459 teen murder arrestees. Mainly responsible for this statistic is most likely the attributed to the number of gangs in the area, which goes over twenty. Nevertheless, juvenile delinquency is not solely tied to material gratification in impoverished kids.
Going back to low-income families, it is also possible to relate teen crime to their home lives. Saving Children from a life of Crime categories family factors in six ways: “criminal and antisocial parents and siblings, large family size, child-rearing methods (poor supervision, poor discipline, coldness and rejection, low parental involvement with the child), abuse (physical or sexual) or neglect, parental conflict and disrupted families, and other parental features (young age, substance abuse, stress or depression, working mothers)” (Farrington, Welsh, 2007, p.56). Much of this relates to the previous discussion on parents influencing poverty on their kids. For example, if the parent has poor morals, the child will most likely adopt those same morals. In other words, if a parent has no problem stealing money from neighbors, the child will have no problem stealing from the store, the parent, or the neighbors. Likewise, if a parent is abusive, the child may take on either an aggressive nature towards other, or develop antisocial skills that could result in drug use. Single parents can also attribute to juvenile delinquency. For one, they are often not home enough to give their child all the attention they need. This leaves the kid open to outside influences. If they live in a crime infested neighborhood, it is possible they will take in the negative qualities of the neighborhood and turn into a criminal themselves. A prime example is the Katrina victims in New Orleans. The majority of victims were poor, black, and women and children. Supporting evidence is concluded in the statistic that 76% of births to Louisiana’s African Americans (probably above 80% in New Orleans) are to unmarried women (Leo, 2005). A commentator, George Will, believed this contributed to high crime in the area by saying that the single mother household “translates into a large and constantly renewed cohort of lightly parented adolescent males, and that translates into chaos…” (Leo, 2005). The same article also reports from a study of 20 cases that 19 found evidence that children who come from single parent or non-intact families had a higher rate of delinquency.
Adolescents living in poverty are not just criminal offenders. They are also victims. Children are victims of poverty in that they are born into it, and its affects hit them from birth.
Sadly, some are also the victims of crime that happens in their neighborhoods. Sometimes they fall victim to other teens, as in with gang shootings, though some gang members are older than the juvenile level. However, adults are offenders too. 60 children (more often located in low income areas) out of every 1,000 from single parent families experience violence. The risk is 50% less in two parent families. Additionally, they are more susceptible for neglect from parents who are preoccupied and abuse from parents, some struggling from alcoholism or drug problems, who take out their own aggression from personal failure on the children (Siegel, Welsh, Senna, 2006, p.54-55). Rape is also a problem in poor areas, which actually partially explains the numerous amount of teen mothers. In a study conducted by An Ounce of Prevention found that “60% of teens who experienced a first pregnancy by age 16 reported that their pregnancy was the result of being forced into sex; they were victims of incest, molestation, or rape” (Edwards, Crain, Kalleberg, 2007, p.210). Last, teens have been used as “scapegoats”. Juvenile Acts are often multiplied by the media, and the fact that thousands of American kids live in poverty is ignored and they continue to get hurt by its affects (Males, 2000).
The next problem revolves around reducing juvenile delinquency, particularly in low income areas. In recent years, government authorities have not focused on prevention or rehab programs for juvenile delinquents. Instead, they have focused on punishment, building more jails to take in more juveniles, often along with adults. Similarly, kids are being tried in adult court at lower ages and more often. This is the cheap solution the government uses to make people feel that they are dealing with the situation of juvenile crime and making things safer. In reality, its as if people are giving up on the young. Oklahoma is one of the major states increasing its punishment on adolescents. If it were really true that harsh punishment was the solution to less crime, Oklahoma should be almost safe-haven from crime. In reality, figures in the last decade (as of 1996) showed arrest rates for juvenile violence skyrocketing at twice the national pace. To make it short, increasing and harsher punishment on juvenile delinquents has not proven to be an efficient mean to ending delinquency (Males, Docuyanan, 1996).
One thing that needs to be dealt with is the children who are already labeled as juvenile delinquents. Since increasing severe punishment has not worked, the next proposal revolves around some type of rehab programs for the kids, which is the original reason the juvenile court system was created (Filler, Smith, 2006). Rehabilitation makes sense as compared to punishment, considering that these kids have only learned what they have been influenced by and their brains have not fully developed as with adults. It makes more sense to set up a system where juveniles will realize the extent of their crime and its consequences, and set up a system that involves his or her family, school, and community. That will help one adjust to a healthier lifestyle. Another important piece that is essential for full rehabilitation that should be included is an intervening psychologist to decide whether or not the child has any mental issues and help them cope with the current stresses of his’ life.
A better solution to the problem would be to prevent juvenile delinquency all together. Since a considerable amount of crime comes from children and teens in low income neighborhoods, a good place to start would be with poor teens, as well as reducing poverty altogether. Wayne Thompson of Oklahoma City agrees. He says “Intervene, then trace the pathology back to its source”, the source being “the low social, educational, and economic status of the families and the communities” where most violent youth are located (Males, Docuyanan, 1996).
There are programs that have been developed with preventing teen crime and stopping the cycle of poverty in mind. Unfortunately, not all these programs succeed because of lack of support. One such program was Amer-I-Can Foundation for Social Change, founded by Jim Brown, a Cleveland Brown’s legend. The program aimed to “steer city high school students away from trouble” by teaching “self-determination” (Ott, 2009). It helped eleven Cleveland schools, with a current enrollment of 800 boys and girls, keep the surrounding areas relatively calm. Amer-I-Can involved classes (the held academic credit) that students with grade, discipline, or attendance problems were referred to. The classes let students vent their feelings, talked about attitude, and involved goal setting, job searches and financial stability. In addition, three Peace Squad members kept tabs on the community. Lester Fultz, district security chief, claimed the squad helped “prevent neighborhood clashes from kindling in school corridors” (Ott, 2009). While the foundation no longer exists in the Cleveland area, it is still running in other Ohio cities, other states, plus England and Belize. (Ott, 2009).
Despite lack of general support, there are programs that persist with the purpose of keeping kids out of crime and reducing poverty. Successful programs usually include several key elements. Carol Mendez Cassel states that the two fundamental principal to effective programs for teenagers are: “teens need a map and caring adults to guide them through the challenging maze of adolescence” and “parents and ‘parents plus’ need to be actively engaged in the planning and implementation of programs” (Edwards, Crain, Kalleberg, 2007). With that said, the assumption can be made that having parents actively involved in a child’s life in a exemplarily manner is a key aspect. If that is the case, the parent(s) may need to have special training courses for them to teach better parenting skills. The book “Saving Children from a Life of Crime” outlines several different types of prevention to turn children away from delinquency followed by examples of programs based on those types of prevention. Most of the programs are risk based, or focused on kids who are potentially more susceptive to crime. In addition to family influence, they also focus on education, peer, and community factors. Basically, school programs should start in preschool, specifically to children who come from low-income families as their parents are unlikely to provide them with all the proper enrichment skills. An eye should also be kept on children who show underdeveloped social skills. A school duty includes providing students with a safe and stimulating environment that encourages growth and learning as well. Peers, or friends, are often sources that lead to good or bad behavior. A child who surrounds themselves with delinquent peers will follow suit positive and intelligent peers will guide the child in that same direction. However, peer based programs do not exist by themselves but can incorporated into other plans. Good role models can be the strongest effect for kids, which is enforced by programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Communities, as discussed previously, can be very harmful to kids living in impoverished areas, as they are full of crime and at a standstill in terms of growth. For instance, regarding the peer issue as well, poor areas are often gang infested, and kids are often led into gangs by their so-called friends. Neighborhoods that offer social institutions, such as recreation and afterschool programs, churches, and clubs, will have a higher success rates for children staying out of crime and escaping poverty. (Farrington, Welsh, 2007)
Case studies have been done on each type of preventative program to measure its’ success. These cases inadvertently focus on the poor. From the first area of need, or element the influences children, is a parent education plus daycare program called the Syracuse University Family Development Research program of Ronald Lally, Peter Manigone, and Alice Honig. Most of the sample women were poor, pregnant African American women who were single mothers. They were provided with help in child-rearing, health, nutrition and other problems. Free full-time day care with aims to strengthen the child’s intellectual abilities was given to the families as well. The follow-up done 15 years later showed that the group of children in the program were less likely to become delinquents and the girls had better school attendance and performance. In addition to enhanced intellectual ability of kids, programs similar to this lead to better jobs and family functioning as well. (Farrington, Welsh, 2007)
There are four different types of school based intervention which include: “school and discipline management; classroom or instructional management; reorganization of grades or classes; and increasing self-control or social competency using cognitive behavioral or behavioral instruction methods” (Farrington, Welsh, 2007). Project PATHE, or Positive Action Through Holistic Education is a program that focuses mainly on school and discipline management. Its four main aspects focus on shared decision making in schools, increasing the competence of teachers, increasing the academic competence of students (like teaching study skills), and improving school climate. The program seeks to help kids feel like they belong and are important, which is often a problem of schools in poor cities. Project PATHE has been able to reduce crime, alcohol/drug abuse, and antisocial behavior. (Farrington, Welsh, 2007).
Another problem young adults in poverty face in terms of education that was discussed earlier is that there was little prospect of them attending college because they had problems affording it, were uniformed, or simply told they could not make it anyway. While “the College Club” is not necessarily a preventative program in keeping youth out of trouble, it does help kids realize college is possible, and a college degree leads to better jobs, and therefore an escape from poverty. Tony Staurbach is the founder of the program who graduated from Wilmington College, where almost half of the students are the first ones in their families to attend college. Starurbuch, volunteers, and staff (primarily Wilmington College students) helps kids understand the college process, what it is all about, and explain the type of degree they might want to attain based on what their career interest is. Better yet, as most of the staff came from the same background as the kids they speak to, they serve as great examples that say “you can do this too.”
Communities play a key role in schooling as well. If the community is poor, the school reflects that. Worse, the community seems to accept the crumbling school and poor education of its youth. Hugh B. Price believes that cooperation between community and school will lead to a higher success rate in children. That is why he, as a head of the National Urban League, created the National Achiever’s Society. The society started in Florida, where children who earned B averages or better were inducted into a community-based honor society by ceremony. With the support of the community, the young students were proud of their achievement. This idea reinforced that fact of hard work and good grades leading to success. A community that promotes academic achievement will help put children on a path to greater opportunities. (Edwards, Crain, Kalleberg, 2007).
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America has been a long lasting non-profit organization for communities to provide after school services of the young. The club was founded in 1902 and has grown to include more than 1.3 million youth. They provide programs in six main areas: cultural enrichment; health and physical education; social recreation; personal and educational development; citizenship and leadership development, and educational development. Their most common services include reading classes, sports, and homework assistance. At times the club also offers preventative substance abuse programs such as SMART Moves (Self-Management and Resistance Training). The Boys and Girls Clubs of America have lowered juvenile delinquency rates and less substance abuse in its practiced areas. (Farrington, Welsh, 2007)
All these programs can, and have, made a difference in the lives of children in poverty. Still, the fact of the matter is that these programs are not enough. Child poverty still exists in alarming numbers all over America. Something bigger needs to happen. The entire nation needs to take part for children to really get out of poverty and for the cycle to end. It needs to include ways that will to get poor children better schooling and more attention, so their education and developmental growth can equal that of their better-off counterparts. That is not to say no efforts have been made. The “No Child Left Behind Act” was a step made to improve education and hold school accountable for the students’ knowledge, but it has not been enough (Edwards, Crain, Kalleberg, 2007). The government also needs to establish a plan aimed at preventing youth crime (Farrington, Welsh, 2007). In order for a national strategy to work, there needs to be cooperation between all states and areas of government, from local and federal to national. To be able to accomplish that, citizen need to be better informed on child poverty and willing to enter the fight against it as well.
The start of eliminating child poverty will most likely prove to be the beginning of amending many other problems as well. Crime will begin to reduce in almost all areas, meaning safer communities. These flourishing cities will only make that states, and then country, stronger. As these children receive better education and job opportunities, they will fight their way out of poverty. There families will then too have a better chance of remaining above the poverty line. The more well-to-do people there are means smaller and smaller areas of low-income neighborhoods in cities. These flourishing cities will only make that states, and then country, stronger. This leaves open the possibility of the cycle of poverty being stopped, and the end to poverty in America.
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