SpecialPrograms for In-school Youth
Thereare various challenges facing youth in the United States of Americaespecially among the school-going youth. They require specialattention as a means to aid them in completing their education. Thevarious problems that make them vulnerable come from differentsources both in the family and from the outside world. Since they arestill in school, it is difficult to enroll them in other programs outof the school arena. However, the management of different schools isan association with national and federal institutions design programsfor them that have a close integration with their schoolwork. Themain aim is to make the youth more productive in school and providethe least possible deviation from the course of events that go on inschool. The rationale for giving them extra services is due to therealization that they may not exploit their full potential. It may bedue to some mind-engaging reasons emanating from their families orthe general environment (Eaton et al., 2012).
InAmerica, the term special youth or youth at risk defines individualwho are still undergoing the academic process but are under thepressure of external factors that may prevent them from performingwell or completing their education. Such individuals require atemporary or a continuous intervention to free them from the bondageof their stressors. The term may also mean adolescents who are readyto transits into adulthood but have different challenges that mayrender the process incomplete (NCEE, 1983).
Someof the major characteristics of this special group include emotionaland behavioral problems, truancy, low academic performance, lack ofinterest in academics and having a disconnection with the schoolenvironment.
Theterm ‘at risk youth ’ dates back to 1983 when the NationalCommission on Excellence in Education published an article dubbed “ANational Risk.” In the article, the commission identified theUnited States of America economy to b economically and sociallyendangered. The commission identified a group of students, owing tothe challenges posed by the social and economic environment waslikely to perform poorly in their academics. Their reducedperformances owed to the disruption they got from the environmentthat reduced their levels of concentration and interest in academicwork (NCEE, 1983).
Thecommission also identified the various characteristics of suchstudents so that learning institutions could identify and isolatethem to give them special treatment. The youth with low economicstatus exhibit feelings of being isolated and estranged in theirlearning institutions. The commission further went ahead to claimthat the label that people get as being economically unable is acontributing factor to the idea of being left. It also leads to afeeling of isolation from the rest of the population (NCEE, 1983).
Thehistory of the special programs for the youth could not have acomprehensive approach without bringing to light the variouscontributing factors to this group of school going youth. Thefollowing causes came to light.
First,a significant number of American families live in relative poverty.The economic status of these families renders the youths who comefrom them to be at risk. There are various negative outcomesassociated with the growing poverty that has a big impact on theperformance of the youth and also lead to a poor transition fromadolescence to adulthood. The timing and the duration of poverty, aswell as the depth that a family sinks into the menace, may determinethe intensity of the risk that the youth face. Poverty comes with acertain level of distraction and low self-esteem, and this is likelyto interfere with the academic outcomes of the youth. They feelisolated, and they and this marks the beginning of the lack ofinterest in matters of education. The youths who live in thehouseholds surviving below 50% of the federal poverty levels form thebiggest group that is at risk.
Secondly,family instability and dysfunction may contribute to the youth beingat risk. The family instability puts pressure on the youth to copewith the situation. The trauma that ensues in the daily or occasionalfamily ordeals is likely to follow the youths to their differentlearning institutions. Some of the leading family dysfunctionfeatures include divorce, cohabitation, remarriage and separation. Domestic violence, crime and substance abuse are also other leadingfactors that contribute to poor performance of children in school.The environment posed by the family is not conducive to theirlearning and this result to poor performance. A sustained familydisorganization may lead to truant behavior and increase thelikelihood of dropping out of school due to suppressed interest ineducation.
Thenational commission on academic excellence also found out that theenvironment in the school and the community also puts the youth atrisk. The school environment may leave the youths without and skillsto cope with the different challenges that face them. Some of theschool environments may also become very hostile to some youthespecially if there are hubs of bullying. Such condition maydisengage some youths from the system, and this affects theirperformance. The community environment that gets associated withdifferent neighborhoods is also another contributing factor.Neighborhoods labeled as high-poverty areas have the undesirablecharacteristics of crime, drug and substance abuse, few resources inschools and poorly performing schools. Fewer resources translateinto few teachers regarding the number f students. The continuedfeeling of being in the wrong neighborhood or falling below thenation poverty levels is a contributing factor to isolation and lackof interest in education.
Forthese reasons, the Commission identified the dire need foridentifying this social group and tailoring for them special programsto help them move parallel with others in the school environment.Since then, some schools and organizations took up the idea andinstituted a training program that helps the youth to adapt and copewith the different challenges they face. These may be in the familyand the social environment (United States Department of Education,2004).
Thecountry adopted various policies aimed at taking care of the needs ofyouths who are in a disadvantaged position in the society. The TitleOne elementary and secondary act of 1965 received various amendmentafter the national commission on academic excellence identified thatthere were factors in the environment that rendered some people atrisk more than others. The act contributed to a policyimplementation that had various objectives. First, it sought toachieve an equal and fair opportunity to all the school-goingindividuals to obtain a high quality education. The objectiveproposed a continuous assessment and accountability systems in thecurriculum for both the teacher and the learner. The instructionalmaterials should have a reflection of the challenging environmentthat the children and the youth live. The mechanism would provide aplatform for teachers, parents and administrators to measure thestudents’ performance against the expected outcomes.
Theobjective also proposed the institution of a mechanism that wouldmeet the needs of low-achieving youth in the country’spoverty-stricken areas. It also sought to involve migratory children,delinquent, and the disabled. An important feature of this act wasthe closing of the gap between the high and the low performingchildren. In doing this, the act proposed holding the educationinstitution accountable for any gap that exists between the learners. They were to be the responsible partners in ensuring that theirlearners achieve the highest level of education excellence. In doingso, they were to adopt programs for the disadvantaged youths to helpthem achieve the same results as the others who come from well upfamilies (United States Department of Education, 2004).
Currently,the different institutions that support learning in the country haveembraced the programs aimed at helping the youth out of their variousproblems when it comes to risky situations. The society experiences acomprehensive approach towards the issue with both the public and theprivate sector taking part in the reforms. The proposed amendment bythe national council on academic excellence has found a soft spot inthe society, and the implementation of most of them are underway.Currently, various models are in practice.
First,there is a nationwide campaign to support children through thetransition from childhood to adulthood. Most the youths did not enjoythe communal support a decade ago, and they were vulnerable tomisinformation and misguided decisions. The program aims at givingthe youth skills of coping with the different environment both athome or in school. Before dealing with the initial cause of theproblems facing the American society, there is a need to give theyouths a buffer characteristic that will cushion them from the harmsposed by these situations. The programs contain information on copingmechanisms and remaining on track despite going through troubledmoments. The success of this intervention is evident with theincreased number of youths who despite coming from backgrounds thatmake them prone to feeling isolated, continuing from one level ofeducation to another and excelling at the same time.
Variousstates have adopted the idea, and they are in the process ofimplementing it. States like Iowa have a special budget for theyouth’s program that is under the facilitation of the federalgovernment expenditure. Various schools are receiving more than 14million dollars that help them to implement a safe social environmentfor the youths as well as giving them specialized training concerningthe different problems they are facing. Some states have adopted theidea, but they have a customized version for their youths accordingto the needs pointed by the various stakeholders.
Secondly,the program is trying to create awareness for the differentstakeholders to maximize the use of the community resource to supportthe youths in their education and social life. Efficient use ofavailable resources can increase the capacity of the learninginstitutions to support the activities of the youths and guide themthrough the turbulent journey into adulthood. The current target ofthe program includes both the public and the private sectors. Manyprivate institutions that operate on charitable basis have come in,and they have sessions for the youths. They target those who arestill facing problems in their families and from their environmentthat have the capability of affecting their academic work. Theprograms established by the private institutions beef up themainstream programs offered by the public learning institutions.
Theprogram also recognizes the need for resilience among the in-schoolyouth. The various challenges they encounter both at home in theirsocial environment may repeatedly occur. The youths should have thecapacity to withstand the pressure repeatedly to cope with thesesituations. The trauma experiences in the youthful years can bedetrimental and damaging to the emotional development of theindividuals. Many of the youths in the social groups have experiencedtrauma in one way or another, and they have the capacity to cope withnew environments. The current program emphasizes on giving themmental and social skills to fit in any environments through arepeated set of actions aimed at giving desirable coping results(United States Department of Education, 2004).
Thereare several non-government sectors taking part in the program. Themajor ones are Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and ReadingRockets. The Big Brother Big Sister is a non-profit organizationthat mentors learners to realize their full potential. It is one ofthe oldest mentoring groups in the country. The report on youths atrisk presented by the national council on academic excellenceinstigated the group to intensify its efforts especially towards theidentified youths at risk. Through its efforts, there are increasingnumbers of youth reformers and improved education performance. Theyouths with truant characteristics that have undergone the group’sprogram exhibit focused characteristics. The group is a primary unitin supporting the program (Geldhof et al., 2013).
ReadingRockets is also a group based in the country. Unlike the Big BrothersBig Sisters of America, the group is government funded, and itconducts research on the best strategies to assist the school goingyouths who are at risk of various circumstances in their environment. The group also engages in research that creates insight on the bestreading and teaching strategies to that would have the best outcomesin schools. The group has been very instrumental in conductingresearch on the various favorable approaches to youths at riskeducation programs. It has been a primary informant to the programimplementers both at the national and federal level (Geldhof et al.,2013).
Thefuture of the special programs for the in-school youths at risk inAmerica is likely to be a reflection of the ever-changingenvironment. The problems identified in 1983 by the national councilon academic excellence are not the only problems that the youth arefacing today. Technology and globalization have come with their shareof challenges for the youth concerning the changing environment inthe family and the external arena. The group involved in researchwill play a significant role in providing the policy makers andimplementers with information that is consistent with the currentneeds of the youth. The program should reflect a customized approachfor each group rather than offering blanket interventions for all thegroups. The number of youths at risk is likely to increase with thepositive trend of migration and economic turns that do not favorindividual families. The number of people residing in the areasdeemed as poor in on the rise with the injection of both legal andillegal migrants. Therefore, the institutions that support thespecial programs should exhibit an intensified approach to improvingthe performance of the youth in schools. They should also assistingthem to have smooth transition from adolescence to adulthood (Geldhofet al., 2013).
Theamendment of the Title One act missed an imperative point ofinvolving all the stakeholders to improve the performance of theyouths in schools. Parents have a very pivotal role in the educationof their children (United States Department of Education, 2004).Sometimes, they are the cause of children lacking interest in schooldue to the presence of an unconducive environment at home. Involvingthem in the program will instill in them the various supportivemechanisms they can institute in the family for the benefit of theirchildren. Also, it is not the duty of the government and thenon-profit making institutions to shape the life of the youths.Sometimes, the youth is not in school, and they require the supportof the society. For this reason, the community should take part inthe education life of children by offerings resources and providing asupportive environment.
Inconclusion, the American Society will always have school-going youthswith different problems that warrant an intervention less they losein the education field (Eaton et al., 2012). The sustainability ofthe programs is, therefore, important. For this to happen, thedifferent institutions should involve all the stakeholders to createa sense of ownership. It will contribute to the American dream ofproviding equal opportunities to all citizens.
Eaton,D. K., Kann, L., Kinchen, S., Shanklin, S., Flint, K. H., Hawkins,J., … & Wechsler, H. (2012). Youth risk behaviorsurveillance-United States, 2011. Morbidityand mortality weekly report. Surveillance summaries (Washington, DC:2002),61(4),1-162.
Geldhof,G. J., Bowers, E. P., & Lerner, R. M. (2013). Special sectionintroduction: Thriving in context: Findings from the 4-H study ofpositive youth development. Journalof youth and adolescence,42(1),1-5.
TheNational Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE) (1983). Nationat Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform.USDE: Washington.
UnitedStates Department of Education. (2004).TitleI -Improving The Academic Achievement Of The Disadvantaged. USDE:Washington, DC.