The Youth Impact Program at the University of Southern
California is YIP’s oldest and most experienced program. This year the program celebrated its fourth year of helping needy children. The program served 148 boys, including 15 6th graders, 76 7th graders and 57 8th graders. Almost all of these youth were inner city minorities, with 68% being African-American, 31% being Hispanic, and approximately 1% being of other racial groups, including Caucasian and Asian-American.
Despite having helped over 500 at-risk boys to date, the need in Greater Los Angeles remains high. According to a recent United Way study, only 57% of 9th graders in Los Angeles County schools graduate from high school. Over 70% of middle schools serving low-income African American and Latino populations (served by this program) are failing federal education standards. In Los Angeles, students who fail even one middle school class are much more likely to drop out of high school. Less than 50% of students who failed at least one class in grades 6 through 8 graduated from high school within four years, compared to over 66% of students who never failed a class. What is even worse is that nearly half of students don’t feel safe at school: 48% of 7th graders report being harassed, pushed, shoved or hit by peers at school, and 13% have carried a weapon onto school property at least once.
In part, these problems are caused or at least exacerbated by the lack of educational resources in Los Angeles. There are severe shortages of qualified teachers for mathematics in Los Angeles middle schools that primarily serve communities of color (see figure above). Further, middle school students are not forming relationships with their teachers or adults at school: 71% of 7th graders report having no high-level or caring relationship with any adults in the school, allowing them to “fall through the cracks.”