Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Generation Cheated by Detroit

There is a generation of adults in Detroit who have been very cheated by the City, State and Federal government. They are around 20 to 30 years old and they attended public schools (mostly the middle and high schools) that made them hate learning (not all schools - there were some good ones in there and some good individuals) in an environment that was akin to a full out war. Children who experienced any sort of foster care experienced it all even worse! For the parents and students who went through and headed toward higher education or a vocational program, I know that it was a superhuman effort.

There are two sides to the second chance. One is for these young adults and the other is for the City as a whole. I have heard early childhood educators and early elementary educators express concern about the generation of children they are currently working with. They cannot understand what is happening. Its all about a generation that learned to hate school, who were often encouraged to fail in a broken system, and now they have children. These young adults are bright and have withstood challenges most people could never imagine. They are tough as nails but have been given no opportunities.

Of course as a society we can never really make this up to them. However, its never too late for a second chance. A REAL second chance - not some half baked "jobs" or GED program that they attend for a couple of weeks and quit - the programs getting their funding and the young people getting nothing.

This is about adult education that could be in partnership with elementary schools to get children's parents back into an adult education program that is tailored just for them. It has to be part of the community they live in. It has to have transportation, day care, some part of it has to be one-on-one instruction, and would count for some community college credit. There also needs to be a jobs component. Also there needs to be a component for those who have a criminal record or are in jail. When they are put on probation, there needs to be a structured, whole program with required attendance they go into to complete their requirements for probation - they should not just be left to figure out for themselves where to do community service and complete a GED program.

This generation grew up without truancy rules. Many people don't understand that when a school system neglects truancy rules, they set up young people to fail at EVERYTHING because they don't see anything wrong with just not showing up for work or for higher education classes. At one point it was 60 days made a student truant. Really?!

Most of them never had the chance at the crappy part time teenage job where they would have learned basic job skills. We don't have to reinvent the wheel - there are plenty of jobs programs out there. We just need to take them and flex them around this generation's needs, one adult at a time. Time is ticking. This generation needs help right now. They needed it 10 or 15 years ago. We would start it as a pilot program to see if they would actually show up and then spread it to the whole city. We owe it to them.

How to pay for it? I hesitate to say how because in a year I don't know what the economy will be. What I do know is that there are often grants and initiatives and we would just have to bend them to suit this need. There is a scholarship that is available from the state for each child who has been on Medicaid for a certain amount of time. I have a pretty good feeling most of this generation did not take advantage of it. It is the 
State of Michigan, Department of Treasury, Student Scholarships and Grants, Tuition Incentive Program 
which would be $2,000 for each adult (the age cut off would be something we would have to work through). There are also literacy centers with volunteer tutors that could be partners. There are plenty of adults in Detroit and the suburbs who would volunteer to help. The door-to-door transportation and child care (which could be part of an educational pre-school program) would have to be worked out. It would be a matter of coordination of services, grants, and sponsors. Its huge but certainly not impossible. Its essential to Detroit's future.

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