Preservation of Tomorrow’s Children: A Grant Proposal for Community Outreach presented to
the Allan S. and Jeanne N. Hall Foundation María D. Parrilla de Kokal
Introduction and Background A significant portion of our children are at great risk for failing to become healthy, happy, and productive citizens of tomorrow. Among the most serious risk factors predicting children’s failure to become well adjusted and productive adults is their growing up in a poor family in the inner city. Housing and health care, access to effective education and even one’s personal safety are negatively affected by living in poverty in the inner city (Huston, McLoyd, & Coll, 1994). Poverty tends to augment adult stress, which in turn results in less parental nurturance and consistency and more physical punishment (Patterson, 1982). With few successful role models, abundant health problems, and little obvious incentive to do well in school (Eccles & Roesner, 1998; Wilson 1987), growing up in poverty presents challenges that go beyond the individual or family to include the entire community. This community challenge is exemplified in the problems facing inner city schools. Inner city schools are associated with poor environments and increase of school staff turnover (Cole & Cole, 1999), making them below par. However, children living in the community, but outside the traditional "inner city" are also put at risk when the community is ineffective in dealing with these problems. Not all gang members come from poor homes in the inner city, nor do all poor readers, many of whom also suffer from the siren call of gang membership, especially when they are doing poor academically.
Rectifying this situation is made more difficult since at risk children are not a homogeneous group sharing exactly the same problems. They may or may not live in a common neighborhood. They include members of racial, ethnic, and linguistic majority and minority groups. There are risk factors associated with being a member of an underrepresented group that compound those associated with being poor. Minority children, particularly linguistic minorities, are at additional risk for educational failures for reasons beyond those associated with poverty (National Center for Education Statistics, 2000).
Many children in Ogden City have multiple risk factors associated with academic failure and risk for delinquency. The poverty rate in Weber County is currently the highest of all of Utah counties as is the population of Hispanics/Latinos (personal interview with J. García, September, 2000).The Ogden City School District has 79% of children in their six inner city schools on free or reduced lunch (Standard Examiner, 1999). For example, at Dee Elementary School 95% of the students live at or below the poverty line. Among those with lower income, particularly minorities, 50% or fewer will graduate from high school, let alone attend college or receive some other form of vocational preparation (personal interview with J. García, September, 2000).