By Tamara Meyerhoff, Polished Pebbles Intern
My mentoring responsibilities aren’t limited just to working with the school age -girls and female college students in Polished Pebbles. I also find a tremendous about of satisfaction mentoring college/graduate interns as well. I’m proud to share this blog post that was written by one of our summer interns Tamara Meyerhoff. Tamara is a senior at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. She is majoring in Social Work with a concentration in Family Studies. This summer she attended the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture in Hyde Park. Through her classes she was able to experience the culture of Chicago, from the South Side to the North Side. Tamara also completed two part-time internships–one with me at Polished Pebbles, and the other with United African Organization.
As national news continually reports the alarming increase in gun violence in Chicago, I’d like to share with you this infographic from Tavis Smiley Reports on PBS. The school to prison pipeline is the education and juvenile justice system working in tandem to incarcerate mostly lower class minorities. According to the article, schools will unfairly target minority students to be criminally charged for minor acts. As the graphic shows, in 2013, 70% of in-school arrests were of black or Latino youth. Even more shocking, black and Latino students are 3.5 times for likely to be suspended than white students.
The author believes that this harsh reality affects the self-perception of black youth. By constantly being surrounded by a negative stereotype, they start to believe they are nothing more than that stereotype—violent, aggressive, hot-tempered, and criminal. Polished Pebbles is one organization working to fight against the cycle of the school to prison pipeline. It does this in a subtle way. The Polished Pebbles curriculum changes the way African-American girls perceive themselves as young black women. One high school student reported, “Before Polished Pebbles, I had a horrible attitude. Now, I learned that I have to control my attitude because those same people can help me with my future”. Listen to Polished Pebbles success Pertesha share her story through the foster care system. Furthermore, these girls have dreams of becoming doctors, dentists, and even accountants.
These girls have grown because they were surrounded by role models who told them they are capable and deserving individuals. As the article has shown, this is where the school system has been failing black youth. It is here that organizations, communities, and individuals can begin to break the school to prison pipeline.
Share with us in the comments below what can you do in your community to help one youth from entering the school to prison pipeline?
Tamara Meyerhoff, Polished Pebbles Intern