“Helping the Youth”

New York resident, cashier

I don’t really talk about this poverty or public assistance with other people. The only exception would be with a small group from church. We have worked with a Kindergarten class in an urban school with a very high rate of poverty for the past few years, coming in weekly to help do centers with the children so the teacher could work individually or in small groups with the children and then coming in monthly to celebrate birthdays in the class.

My group has had discussions that go around and around about how to help these children beyond Kindergarten as to graduate from high school and go to college etcetera and break the cycle of public assistance.  The more we talked about it, the more we saw that there were so many other factors and that there is no simple fix. These five-year-old kids were very accepting of us and wanted to learn. As we talked about tutoring, or mentoring, or setting up scholarships, we saw education being the answer, but realized many came from a culture where education wasn’t valued as is represented by a district with one of the lowest graduation rates in the country and also one of the highest truancy rates.

We also considered the fact that we may be resented as outsiders coming in to “fix” them.  How could we get the teenage boys to see the possibility of being successful when they expect to be either dead or in jail in a few years? The question of where the money for their food or housing came from was no longer the issue.   There is an entire culture that is making it difficult for these kids to succeed.

Vicki is from the New York and has worked as a grocery story cashier. She is Caucasian, 48 years old, and was interviewed by Elon student Alex Sherry on November 23, 2012.

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