“A Father’” by Bharati Mukherjee , “Seerving up Hope” by Stephanie Sharpio, “Directions for Resisting the SAT,” by Richard Hague, and ““First Practice” by Gary Gildner all express ideas of non conformity and going against the norm that has been set by those before you. This week we were not able to visit acts 4 youth because of the outbreak of mumps, but instead we had a meeting with some of the students that volunteer for the acts 4 youth program. In this meeting we discussed some very eye opening facts about where the kids from this program will be heading after their time at middle and high school. I personally did not know half of the facts we learned at this meeting. I did not know that in Baltimore the high school system was so different from where I live. They have the regular public high schools, but they also have magnet high schools in which the students have to apply to before hand and have to take placement tests for. We talked about the different types of students that would be coming out of the middle schools and where they would all be heading. We ultimately split them into three categories, the A students, who really enjoyed learning and wanted to continue their education, the B students who still did well in school but were most likely to just attend the public high school and possibly decide to go to college in the future, and the C and below students, who for the most part would end up either not going to high school or attending the public high schools for sometime and eventually dropping out. Talking about the different types of students made us all realize that it doesn’t just depend on the student them self, there is so much more the impacts how they do in school and what they decide to do with their lives. We learned how big a part the education system comes into play with the future of these kids. While there are always going to be the A students who do well in school, there will still be the C and lower students. Now this doesn’t mean that these students do not like school and do not want to get and education, it may the complete opposite, but the education system does not fit their interests, and they may become bored of school. They might think to themselves, why would I continue going to school when nothing that I am interested in is covered in class and what I want to pursue in life is being shut down by the teachers and they are telling me to stick to the work that is laid out in front of me? There are many factors that come into play that impact the future of these kids but I think the poems and short stories we had to read really give insight to the struggles these students have to face and how they could change their own lives for the better.
“Directions for Resisting the SAT,” by Richard Hague really opened my eyes, and I think that it would be helpful for the students at Acts4Youth to read. I believe that Hague understands the absurdity of the SAT’s. He knows that it is not fair in any way to compare the score that one person got to that of another person because no one is the same. We all have different learning styles and test taking techniques, so how on earth is the fair the judge others of the same test? There are just so many things that are wrong with the standardized tests where are required to take for entry to college and Hague knows this and is telling us to go against it. In high school the SAT’s seem to rule your life. All you hear is how important they are and if you want to get into a good school you must do well on the SAT’s and to put all the time and effort into studying for it. The kids who may not be the best test takers think to themselves “why should I care and try to do well on this test if I already know I am going to do poorly?” He tells us to not take the test because everyone is telling you to. He tells us “follow no directions, Listen to no one. Make your mark on everything.” Don’t get stuck in the group “everyone else,” don’t do somethimg because that’s what everyone else is doing, do it because you and only you wants to do it. What Hague is telling us here is to not give in to society and do not conform to what people will try to pound into your head, and I think this is something that the kids at Acts4Youth could use. I think Hague wants us to do the SAT’s for ourselves, and no one else. Do it because you believe in yourself and only because of that.
Gary Gildner’s “First Practice,” portrays a life that many of the Acts4Youth kids live. Many of the kids come from single parents homes and face much greater difficulties than most of the population here at Loyola has ever had to face. Gildner portrays a very intimidating first day of practice, but for these kids its not about just a practice, its about their every day situation. We were told a story about a young 7th grade boy in the Acts4Youth program that is bullied by some of the other boys he goes to school with. He gets his backpack and other possession stolen out of his locker, his backpack was urinated on by these boys as well as his house keys stolen. He was asked why he never goes to the teachers or administration for help and he explained that it wouldn’t make a difference, that they wouldn’t help him. The one time he did complain he got the boys to wash his backpack for him but that was it, he did not get his belongings returned to him. He has learned that he must deal with these bullies on his own. This boy lives the Gildner poem. The poem says “ and across the way, he said, is the man you hate the most,” this is what this young boy must experience. Everyday he must face the boys who bully him and he knows he must deal with it on his own because the faculty does nothing to help him. This young boy is living this intimidating practice every time he has to face the bullies at school.
In “A Father,” tradition is broken by his daughter, which leads the father into extreme rage, and he proceeds to beat his own child but for some breaking tradition may be the best thing to do. The father in this story is so set on tradition and the beliefs that he has been raised with that it doe not matter to him that it is his own daughter he is beating. The boys in Acts4Youth are lead to break tradition just as the daughter did. Tradition for these some of these boys may be to drop out of school and go into “pharmaceuticals” as some people may call it. The hope is for the students to realize that there is more to what they have been raised around. The daughter realizes that tradition isn’t everything and there is more to life than what you have been raised around. For these boys it is so common to see young people dropping out of school and for many of them they may see that as an easy path to take as well. Though sad, staying in school could very well be breaking tradition. What makes this “tradition” even worse is the how little people expect from these kids. At the meeting I attended we were told that the Baltimore detention centers calculate the number of beds they will need by checking the local elementary school and seeing how many of the fourth graders are still at a second grade reading level. I compare this news to the father. Both the daughter and the boys at Acts4Youth are being pushed by the pre-destined path into going somewhere they may not want to go. The daughter realized that creating her own path was the best decision for her and hopefully the boys at Acts4Youth will realize that too.
Stephanie Sharpiro’s story in “Serving up Hope” is about new beginnings and knowing that even if you run into obstacles in your life you always have a second shot. The Dogwood Deli gives back to those who have hit these obstacles in life, whatever they may be, and help them start over. Acts4Youth tries to teach their students this importance of giving back. Everyone deserves a second chance, because everyone makes mistakes. We hope the students will understand this idea of giving help to those who need it instead of turning their backs on the people who need it most.