Guns, Violence, and Identity among African American and Latino Youth

By Deanna L. Wilkinson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Limited Opportunities:
Education and Employment Experiences

Given the low level of educational achievement and lack successful employment experiences of respondents in this study it is unlikely that these youth will make a successful transition to mainstream adult social roles without some type of remediation or intervention. Making money and having enough resources to purchase basic necessities that are not provided in the house and luxury items that bring status within the adolescent culture drive many of the choices that these young men made. Most of these youth were deeply involved in illegal activities, especially drug selling: their views of legitimate work and educational attainment reflect either feelings that those avenues were out of reach or that the criminal lifestyle was preferable. Alienation from mainstream opportunities runs high in this context while long-term planning and gradual advancement were rarely observed.


SCHOOL EXPERIENCES

Respondents were asked about their school experiences in terms of level of achievement, good and bad points about school, and their educational aspirations, if any. Of the 113 respondents who described their school experiences, 37 were actively enrolled at the time of the interview. Most of the respondents who were still enrolled in school reported sporadic attendance, had earned only a small number of credits relative to the number of years enrolled, and had disciplinary problems while in school. Jamal explained:

INT: Are you in school now?

JAMAL: Yeah, well, I go school when I feel like it. Right
now I“'ve” been in the 10th grade for two years. I'm
supposed to done graduate already.

Twenty-four respondents had either graduated from high school or successfully completed a GED curriculum; of those, seven had attended at least one semester of college. Of the nine individuals who received a GED, six had prepared for and passed the examination while incarcerated on Rikers Island or in a state prison. Young males who quit school tended to do so around age 14. Also, older respondents had more favorable opinions toward school and the value of education, and generally reported greater success with school than did younger

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