Instilling Hope with After-School Programs

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LaVerne DaCosta is a Ph.D. student and faculty associate, teaching education and society courses at Arizona State University.  Her Master of Science research focused on youth services.  Her current research interest is in youth culture and technology.


From my brief profile above, I am sure you already know where my passion lies.  I believe in the creative potential of young people, and I believe strongly in the value of after-school programs as a resource to help foster and sustain that potential. 


The research on after-school recreation programs, which includes my own Master of Science research, has shown that after-school programs can be beneficial to students, particularly children from underserved communities and/or adolescents who are trying to form their individual identity and are particularly vulnerable to structural or environmental factors that leave them exposed to risk.  Such students tend to act out their aggressions, mistrust and hopelessness in a myriad of counter-productive ways. 


The public school classroom is the one place that such students seldom get the help they need.  The structure of schools and classroom discipline only serve to exacerbate the problem.  Regular participation by young people in after-school recreation programs, however, can have an impact on reducing their negative behaviors.


Additionally, the numerous literature indicate that because the factors that affect young people’s behaviors are inter-related, after-school recreation programs which help to reduce negative behavior, juvenile delinquency, and violent crime also help to build self-esteem, ego-resiliency and ultimately impact their academic achievement.  After-school recreation programs can help maltreated children and transitional foster-care children cope with a variety of issues in their lives and contribute to goals such as self-efficacy and positive development.  Practice is the key to building confidence and these programs provide this space through enrichment curriculum with the exclusion of any grand theory of success and failure.


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Bibliophilia in the Electronic Age

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Flurije Salihu is a PhD candidate and instructor at Arizona State University currently researching New Media and terrorism. She is currently reading Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series during her summer “vacation” and is waiting anxiously for the next Charlaine Harris book. 

Like many of the other contributors to this blog, I’ve had a long and prosperous relationship with reading. One of my first memories, in fact, is of going to the public library with my mother and sister at the age of four (at which point I climbed onto a low shelf of books and yelled like Tarzan, much to my mother’s embarrassment).


My father has never been much of a reader, but my mother and sister and I have always shared books – even to this day, when I am a graduate student in Arizona, my sister a consultant in far-off Virginia, and my mother a plastics colorant manager in Tennessee, we swap texts, e-mail suggestions for new reads, or stick paperback copies of the latest Janet Evanovich into the mail. 


This connective property of literature is what I have noticed most in my own life, especially in the past few years, throughout which most of my network of friends and family has become more frequent users of the Internet. It would seem as though this use of the Internet would be an anathema to the circulation of physical objects like books, but this is not the case. Facebook, especially, with applications like the Digital Bookshelf and Books IRead, puts our love affair with reading on display for all of our friends to see.


In fact, this medium gives us a wider audience to which we can declare that existing love affair. On my digital bookshelf you will find a diverse collection of authors, including Marshall McLuhan, Tamora Pierce, Nora Roberts, and Don Delillo, all of which declare my rather strange taste in literature to my diverse network of both strong and weak ties. 


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Criminalization of Urban Space and Formation of Identity


Chris Magno is a doctoral student and teaches Radical Criminology in the Department of Criminal Justice, Indiana University Bloomington. He is now writing his dissertation on how crime becomes political capital in Philippine politics. He is the author of the book Corruption and Revolution: Joseph Estrada and the Uprising of the Urban Poor in EDSA III, soon to be published by Ateneo de Manila University Press.


“Criminal community” is the popular identity of a place within the larger urban poor region where I conducted research for my Masters Degree at the University of the Philippines. Although I completed my thesis after one year of living and working in the community, I am still contemplating how the community acquired the image of criminality.


The community is located on the public land of North Triangle, Barangay Pag-asa Quezon City, in the Philippines. It is surrounded by many governmental, commercial, and transportation establishments.


Despite the fact that the community is surrounded by commercial establishments, governmental social service offices, and headquarters buildings, 60% of the adult members of the 5,000 families (as of 2001) who live in the community are unemployed, 40% are employed.  Seventy percent of the employed work in private companies, 25% is self-employed and 7% work in governmental offices. All of the people who live in the community lack security of housing, 70% have no health care and, and 30% of the children ages 5-16 are illiterate. Among the unemployed, the most common modes of survival include prostitution, pick-pocketing in the nearby mall, stealing, drug dealing, and illegal gambling games such as jueteng.


The community started to gain its criminal identity when President Ferdinand Marcos criminalized squatting through Presidential Decree 772 in 1975. During this time, the North Triangle community experienced demolition and the burning of their houses. Many were put in prison for violent resistance against demolitions. When P.D. 772 was repealed after the lifting of martial law, the community’s criminal identity was retained and reinforced by the illegal activities of some community members in surrounding establishments. For example, a gang member who lived in the community killed a Philippine Science High School student for refusing to surrender his wallet during a robbery. There were also weekly incidents of hold dapping of buses, taxis and jeep-neys (Philippine public transportation) that stop around the community.


The image of criminality has a huge impact on the lives of the community. The daughters of a resident named Sonia, for example, were not accepted as sales clerks in a nearby department store when its human resources officer learned that they were living in North Triangle. Teodora’s son was not accepted in Philippine Science High School even though he passed the school entrance exam and had a high GPA. I also observed that Catholic residents cannot go to church in nearby high class subdivision because they are usually halted by community guards and chased by dogs. Most of the time residents cannot acquire care in the highly specialized hospitals because they are not capable of paying the required deposit, which only residents of upper level subdivisions can afford.

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Switching Gears for the Summer

From now until the end of August, Changing Lives, Changing Minds will feature one essay per week instead of our usual two. Check in with us every WEDNESDAY for the week’s newest post and be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section!

Want to write a guest essay for the blog? Send an email to for more information.

Emerson’s Theory of Books and Changing Lives Through Literature

emerson_picCarl Schinasi enjoys teaching at Miles College, a historically black college, in Birmingham, Alabama. His recent works have appeared in Ducts, Slow TrainsSouthern Hum, and the essay collection, Baseball/Literature/Culture. Most summers, he can be found lolling around any baseball field anywhere.


Note: Long before Dr. Waxler and Judge Kane started “Changing Lives Through Literature,” Ralph Waldo Emerson proposed, in fact, demanded his own version of the program.  Emerson framed his program not for felons, but for a population I’m sure he considered equally, if differently, incarcerated.  This short essay places “Changing Lives Through Literature” directly in the honorable tradition of “programs” that tie literature to life.    


At this late remove, it may be difficult to imagine Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ”The American Scholar” a radical document, the equivalent of a battle cry that inspired Oliver Wendell Holmes to proclaim it “our intellectual Declaration of Independence.” Yet few literary efforts in America’s history so decisively throw open the doors for a generation as did Emerson’s exhortation to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge on August 31, 1837.  His speech with its declaration, “Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands, draws to a close,” liberated and emboldened the youth of his day to build an America in their own vision. The speech marks a watershed moment in American history and letters.  Though delivered over fifty years after the fact, it resonates as the parting shot of the American Revolution.


In “The American Scholar,” Emerson fumed aloud about a land peopled by ingenious and industrious folk who showed a profound lack of originality. In the speech, Emerson directs his listeners to unshackle themselves from their European ancestors’ ideas and traditions. He admonishes his audience and all Americans to turn this new land into a democracy of “Man Thinking,” not mere “thinkers.”


A simple distinction separates these titles:  “Thinkers” degenerate into victims of society as they parrot other people’s ideas. They devolve into individuals disconnected from each other and a larger purpose; they wind up materialists and solipsists.  “Man Thinking” creates and invents.  He produces an integrated society while drawing inspiration from and remaining connected to Nature, the larger world, which embodies a united, universal, and generative spirit. “Man Thinking” defines Emerson’s idea of the American scholar, his model for the American citizen. This individual would combine vision and action to establish a new government, culture, and society ultimately fulfilling John Winthop’s prediction this nascent country “shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, [where] the eies of all people are uppon us.”


Emerson outlines three criteria to forge this new American. Among these is a call for an engagement with books. With this admonition, not coincidently, Emerson catechized a theory of books we still find instructive in its power to challenge, shape, and change lives. To become a scholar, “Man Thinking,” the seer and doer, Emerson urges his audience to participate in a radical act—read! 


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