TRIO Administrators Hear Edelman Dissect Influences That Spark Youth Violence: NCEOA Conference Ponders Low-Income Students' Needs

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TRIO Administrators Hear Edelman Dissect Influences That Spark Youth. Violence: NCEOA Conference Ponders Low-income Students' Needs

by Mary-Christine Phillip

WASHINGTON, DC -- A relentless crusader for children's rights urged educators, parents, the clergy and lawmakers to take more active roles in helping to curb the wave of violence that's sweeping over America's youth.

"Never have we exposed children so early and relentlessly to cultural messages glamorizing violence, sex, alcohol and tobacco with so few mediating influences from responsible adults," said Marian Wright Edelman in a speech to the National Council of Educational Opportunity Associations during its recent annual conference at the Grand Hyatt Washington Center.

Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, an advocacy group, gave a keynote address on "The State of America's Children." She said that "never have we let children grow up listening to violent rap instead of nursery rhymes, worrying about guns and drugs rather than grades and dates.

"And never have we experienced such a numbing and reckless reliance on violence to resolve problems, feel powerful, to be entertained."

To back up her charge, Edelman reminded her listeners that a single trip to the movies often results in the witnessing of multiple deaths on a scale that makes them seem irrelevant. She noted that one movie critic counted 74 deaths in "Total Recall," 81 in "Robocop 2," 106 in "Rambo III" and 264 in "Die Hard II."

Edelman's speech was timely in that NCEOA administers the TRIO programs -- three programs which help low-income students beat the odds to attend and graduate from college.

Since 1965, approximately 10.5 million students have been served by TRIO, through Upward Bound, which provides high school students academic tutoring on college campuses after school, on Saturdays and during the summer; the Student Support Services program, also on campus, that counsels and tutors needy students; and the Talent Search program, which motivates middle-school students with counseling and information on college admissions, scholarships and aid.

According to NCEOA, 42 percent of TRIO students are white, 35 percent are Black, 15 percent are Hispanic, 4 percent are Native American and 4 percent are Asian.

Two other programs are also under the TRIO umbrella -- Educational Opportunity Centers, which are available throughout the country and serve up to 160,000 displaced or under-employed workers from families with incomes less than $24,000 a year, and the Ronald McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement program that encourages undergraduates to consider careers in teaching, along with preparing for doctoral study. About 2,000 students are enrolled in this program.

Education is Key

In his discussion of education's needs, Freeman Bosley Jr., mayor of St. Louis, MO, said that "no matter how creative and innovative we are at developing new programs to reach out to young people who are falling into the educational abyss, if we fail in the fundamental aspects of education, then we are misdirecting our energies."

He listed several educational principles which he called crucial for fostering a better life. "The first principle," he said, "is that children can learn . . . and Black children and other minority children learn in spite of the obstacles placed in their way."

Bosley said that he does "not subscribe to the notion of intellectual inferiority based on race." He added that there are too many people, some in the classrooms, "on our boards of education and at our colleges and universities who believe that children of African American and Hispanic descent simply do not have the same brain power as their white counterparts . …