Source : Donna Kehl , suite101.com
At-risk youth are young people that are in danger of experiencing life difficulties or failures, whether it be in the home, at school, or out in society. Identifying the contributing factors that makes a young person become vulnerable is the first step in helping them to overcome such obstacles.
Homelessness, abuse, and poverty are well known contributing factors of a youth becoming at-risk. However, there are other contributing factors that may not be so well known, but should be examined further.
The At-Risk Youth Defined
Donna Walker Tileston in her book, What Every Teacher Should Know About Student Motivation, states that a student who comes from a single parent home is not a condition for being at-risk. Edward G. Rozycki, Ed. D., contradicts this theory in his 2004 article, Identifying the ‘At-Risk’ Student: What is the Concern? Rozyncki states that there are several factors that contribute to the condition as follows:
- Living in cities with large populations.
- Living in unstable school districts.
- Being a member of a low-income family.
- Having low academic skills.
- Having parents who are not high school graduates.
- Speaking English as a second language.
- Being a child from a single-parent home.
- Having negative self-perceptions; being bored and alienated; having low self-esteem.
- Pursuing alternatives; males tend to seek paid work as an alternative; females leave to have children or get married.
In examining the research, it is evident that there are many factors that contribute to the condition of a youth experiencing difficult life situations. It is unfair to suggest that all single-parent homes will produce children who are at-risk, but it is also a fact that a great number of children in this country come from single parent homes and is therefore one of the leading reasons why such children are considered at-risk.
Poverty and the At-Risk Youth
Karen Pellino, in her article, The Effects of Poverty on Teaching and Learning, shares that there are multiple factors that contribute to a child being considered at-risk. Pellerino states that some of the factors related to poverty that may place a child at-risk for academic failure are:
- Very young, single or low educational level parents.
- Abuse and neglect.
- Substance abuse.
- Dangerous neighborhoods.
- Exposure to inadequate or inappropriate educational experiences.
Pellerino also shares that teaching children from urban poverty presents its own set of challenges. For instance, the social context that children are accustomed to may be in direct contrast to the social norms expected at school. Teachers must find ways to bridge this gap by providing contextualized instruction that taps into a student’s prior knowledge of his or her known life experiences.
Pellerino goes on to share how teachers must provide support, modeling, and other forms of scaffolding so that they can help students make sense of the curriculum in a manner that fits their needs. These methods help to involve students’ emotions and life experiences into their learning, therefore making the content accessible to them.
Bridging the Gap for At-Risk Youth
In summary, it is evident that there is a growing population of students that are considered at-risk. It is important to bridge the gap between the content to be taught and a child’s known understanding of his or her world.
Furthermore, schools need to offer additional support through character education programs that teach students who are at-risk desired behavioral standards that will ultimately help them achieve not only grade level competency, but will teach them positive social skills as well.