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Posts Tagged ‘inner-city’

An ESPN sports producer set out to do a piece on two high school wrestlers with disabilities. Today they think of her as family. Karen Given reports the story at WBUR radio’s Only a Game.

“Dartanyon Crockett … is legally blind. ‘Being a black kid in the inner city with physical limitations, or what people call a disability, you’re already written off,’ Dartanyon says. ‘No one expects much from you. You’re basically useless. And I wasn’t in a position where I could fix that.’ …

“So he pretended he could see. He joined his high school wrestling team and didn’t even tell the coaches. … Dartanyon didn’t want the coaches to treat him any differently, so they didn’t. Then one day during senior year, Leroy Sutton joined the wrestling team at Lincoln-West High School in Cleveland. Dartanyon was one of the team captains, and he wasn’t the least bit worried that his team’s new recruit was missing something. Well, two somethings.

” ‘We were talking in the cafeteria, and I asked him what happened to his legs,’ Dartanyon says. ‘And he told me that, “Yeah, I was run over by a train.” And I laughed, one of those deep belly laughs. He had always heard the, “Oh, my god. Oh, I’m so sorry. Oh, how did that happen? Oh.” Just to see someone not feeling sorry for him, just kinda sparked a bond almost instantly.’ …

“Soon, Dartanyon was carrying Leroy on and off buses, up and down stairs and into the bleachers. …

” ‘I didn’t know he was blind,’ Leroy says. ‘I found out in class. I noticed he was, like, really close to the book we were reading. So I was like, all right, he has problems seeing. So I turned to a couple of the other students around me and I was, like, “Hey, man, let’s do this like a project style and read out loud.” ‘

“And that’s probably how things would have stayed, Dartanyon and Leroy helping each other out — both thinking it was no big deal — if not for an ESPN feature producer named Lisa Fenn.”

Fenn goes to interview them and is greeted by a coach who said that “he’d been praying really hard for Dartanyon and for Leroy because he felt, once they graduate, the world had nothing for kids like them.”

Turns out the world had quite a bit for them. But it took years. Read the whole story at “Only a Game,” here, because look:

Four years after they first met, Leroy “wrote Lisa a letter for Mother’s Day. … That letter is printed in Lisa’s new book, Carry On, A Story of Resilience, Redemption, and an Unlikely Family. …

When I first met you those were dark days,
In that time I was stuck in my dark way,
There was no light, so you set the world ablaze,
And you snapped me out of that phase,
Then you went further,
Showing me you cared,
Answering my calls now I know that you’ll be there,
Then you ask questions, so slowly I shared,
This world you showed me is simply more fair,
You pull me out of a world where it was not clear,
Glad you did, there was no more air,
But now these days I’m full of smile, and full of play,
Hope you feel loved today,
So I’d like to take this moment to say,
Thank you Mom.
I love you.

Photo: Brownie Harris
Leroy Sutton (left), Dartanyon Crockett (center) and Lisa Fenn, the ESPN producer who came to Cleveland to tell their story.

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Pat Zacks at the Camera Werks in Providence feels compassion for inner-city kids whose schools can’t offer many enrichment activities. That’s why she volunteers every year to mount and hang 500+ juried photos by Pawtucket, Rhode Island, fifth graders (and a few grownups).

On Wednesday I stopped off at the gallery where the “Calling All Cameras” photos are on display until the end of September. The theme this year,  submitted by Linda C. Dugas, is “Pawtucket’s Color Palette.” Winners of this, the 18th, annual photo contest also get their work featured in the city calendar.

An impressive slate of judges are responsible for choosing this year’s winning photos (Butch Adams, Richard Benjamin, Christy Christopoulos, Jesse Nemerofsky, and Aaron Usher). Winners will be announced September 25.

I wish my photo of a child’s box turtle entry had turned out well enough to post, but I’m sharing a couple other favorites here.

Stop by the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor visitor center, just off Interstate 95 in downtown Pawtucket, to find the box turtle. The visitor center is opposite the historic Slater Mill, birthplace of America’s Industrial Revolution.

And if you are ever in Providence, please check out the Camera Werks on Hope Street. Pat’s Facebook page, here, has more information on the photo exhibit.

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Even if, like me, you never got into the TV show “The Wire,” you may know that it was about a troubled section of Baltimore. You also may be interested in a new school there, intended to serve as a real community gathering place.

New York Times design critic Michael Kimmelman has the story.

“In many ways, public schools are gated communities, dead zones,” writes Kimmelman. “They’re shuttered after dark and during the summer, open to parents and students while in session but not to the larger community.

“A new public school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in East Baltimore wants to challenge the blueprint. Designed by Rob Rogers, of Rogers Partners in New York, Henderson-Hopkins, as it’s called, aspires to be a campus for the whole area — with a community center, library, auditorium and gym — as well as a hub for economic renewal.

“This is the neighborhood where parts of ‘The Wire’ were filmed. In 2000, when the city’s mayor convened local business leaders, the vacancy rate was 70 percent. Poverty was twice the city average. Crime, infant mortality and unemployment were all through the roof.

“The idea that emerged — of making the school the centerpiece of a major redevelopment project — is a grand urban experiment. Operated by Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with Morgan State University, the school, which opened in January, belongs to a $1.8 billion plan that also includes new science and technology buildings, a park, retail development and mixed-income housing. While gentrification might threaten to displace the poor, the school is to be the glue that helps bind the district together.” Read more here.

Photo: Matt Roth for The New York Times
Henderson-Hopkins, which shares its library, gym, auditorium, and other features with the surrounding area, is designed to catalyze change in a blighted section of Baltimore.
 

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Holmes-School-Dorchester-MaA new employee goes to the Oliver Wendell Holmes School in Dorchester with the team I’m on. He can’t get over how great it is to work for an organization that gives you time to do this. We go out once a month from January to June, and other teams go once a month so that we cover every week.

I started eight years ago with the team that read picture books to a room of first graders. Then I read for a few years with fifth or fourth graders who received chapter books from the librarian. These were students whose teachers thought they would appreciate the extra reading. We all read aloud, with the adult volunteers only taking a turn if the story seemed to lag.

Holmes is a minority-majority urban school with many dedicated teachers who are tolerant of the extra work it takes to herd volunteers. (We also have volunteers who work on math.)

This year, the team I’m on includes the woman who started the whole relationship with Holmes 20 years ago and is now retired. We are assigned to read copies of printed passages and help the children answer multiple-choice questions from tests they have had in the past.

Given the current nationwide emphasis on testing and these third graders’ tendency to keep guessing wildly, I consider it my role to focus on the thought process and deemphasize getting the right answer. I ask, Why do you think that’s the answer? How did you get there?

The administrators often tell us that we make a difference. We’re probably just a drop in the bucket. But, you know, One and One and 50 Make a Million.

More employers should make it so easy to improve the world in which they operate. Other employees probably spend the hour and a half it takes to go out, tutor, and get back once a month in less valuable ways.

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Got this from SmallerCitiesUnite! on twitter.

Rachel Walker writes at PeopleForBikes.org, “How do you get more people on bikes? Go to where they are, open up a ‘shop,’ teach them to build and maintain a bike. Help them earn a bike. Repeat.

“This is the philosophy behind the myriad of community bike shops sprouting up in inner-city neighborhoods throughout the country. Non-profit organizations that cater to the underserved aim to destigmatize and popularize cycling among communities that have probably not heard of Strava or clipless pedals. In these neighborhoods, bicycle lanes, racks, and, most importantly, riders, are noticeably absent.

“And that, according to the forces behind community bike shops, must change—for multiple reasons.

“ ‘For our core constituents, getting a bike and learning how to maintain it is about economic mobility,’ says Ryan Schutz, executive director of Denver’s Bike Depot. ‘Owning a bike lets them travel farther to find work and spend their money on food, instead of on gas or bus fares.’

“Like the majority of community bike shops, Bike Depot puts bikes into the hands of people who otherwise couldn’t afford them or may not choose to buy them. The organization accomplishes this through earn-a-bike programs and by selling low-cost refurbished bikes. They also teach members bike safety and maintenance skills.” More here.

Sounds like a variation on Bike Not Bombs, which started in the Greater Boston area several decades ago, refurbishing donated bicycles and sending them to poor countries.

Here’s what Bikes Not Bombs says on the website: “Bikes Not Bombs uses the bicycle as a vehicle for social change. We reclaim thousands of bicycles each year. We create local and global programs that provide skill development, jobs, and sustainable transportation. Our programs mobilize youth and adults to be leaders in community transformation.”

All good stuff.

Photo: People For Bikes
The Community Cycling Center in Portland, Oregon, offers bike camps to local kids.

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Shawn and Laura Sears were touched by inner-city kids with too many strikes against them and invited a few for an outdoor camping experience. The outing was so satisfying all around that they just kept doing it.

Marilyn Jones has the story at the Christian Science Monitor.

“Leaving college with liberal arts degrees – his in psychology, hers in geology – Shawn and Laura applied to Teach for America and were eventually placed to teach in one of the poorest regions in the country.

“Today, celebrating 14 years together (getting married along the way in 2004), they’ve seen the seeds sown during their experiences in Mississippi grow to fruition in the founding of Vida Verde Nature Education, a nonprofit outdoor education camp they’ve now run for 11 years.

“Located on northern California’s spectacular coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, this free camp for children from low-income families has served more than 7,000 kids from the inner cities of Oakland, East Palo Alto, San Francisco, and San Jose.

” ‘We help them let go of much of the negativity they often carry,’ Shawn says. ‘It’s nonstop fun, and they get to just be kids for a few days. Three days later, they’re transformed.’ ”

Read more.

Tony Avelar/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
Laura and Shawn Sears founded Vida Verde to give groups of students three days of exposure to and hands-on experience in the outdoors.

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Among children’s books, I especially like books that are fifth-grade level. Although I enjoyed all the “color” fairy books when I was in third grade or so — Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book, the Orange Fairy Book, the Rose Fairy Book, and so on — it wasn’t until about fifth grade that I really got hooked. Flashlights under the cover and all. I had a relative who worked for Dan Wickenden (The Amazing Vacation), and she sent me Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and the Narnia books. My cousin Patsy got me into George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin. I reread that one a couple years ago, and it’s as great as ever.

After college, I  taught fifth and sixth grade for a few years and read to the kids as time allowed. I remember how one class only gradually realized they were really starting to like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince. Reading can sneak up that way.

Today I am one of the volunteers who go out from our workplace to an inner-city school where there has long been a tutoring relationship. It started with a team who read picture books chosen by teachers to first graders. Then other teams were added (such as fourth grade math tutoring), and now there are teams reading with fifth graders. The books are chosen by the librarian. Each fifth-grade volunteer has a group of three children, and grownups and children all take turns reading and discussing. Even though the kids see teams once a week, most individual volunteers only go monthly. It’s not hard to fit into one’s schedule. I have learned about a lot of books by volunteering at the school. I already knew about From the Crazy Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler, but not about Holes, Maniac Magee, Hatchet, or Hidden Talents, to name a few.

One colleague, having found out that I liked this age level, introduced me to the Golden Compass series. Heaven! I also like her suggestion of The Island of the Aunts and recommend it.

Better sign off. The last time we had a storm like the one outside my window, my computer was hit.

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