Truancy in Texas

For Diane Tran, 17, there just weren’t enough hours in the day. The Texas honor student maintained stellar grades, while holding down two jobs to help support her siblings. Everyday after school she worked at a dry cleaners and on weekends worked for a wedding consultant.

With mounting fatigue from both school and work, she piled up 18 unexcused absences and eventually drew the wrath of a judge who hears truancy cases in Willis, a small community about 50 miles north of Houston.

In late May, Tran was jailed overnight on a contempt of court charge for disregarding a previous warning about excessive absences. With the help of a Houston attorney who volunteered his services, she was out of jail in short order and saw the arrest expunged from her record.

Just of the Peace Lanny Moriarty of Willis rescinded his original order but vowed in a statement “to continue to hold students, and sometimes parents, accountable for unexcused absences as we work to reduce truancy, lower the drop-out rate, and instill in tomorrow’s leaders the belief that rules and laws must be followed by all for society to properly function.”

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The Complex Picture of America’s New Immigrants

With President Barack Obama’s mid-June executive order that protected certainchildren of illegal immigrants from deportation, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that invalidated most of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, immigration has finally been yanked onto the front burner.

And with that spotlight has come some misleading shorthand: that immigrant means Latinos and illegal, and that legal immigrants, including immigrant youth, if mobilized to become citizens will vote Democratic. But immigration in the United States today is far more comprehensive than stereotypes and myths can convey, and we owe it to ourselves to understand the nuance . . .

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Teens Get ‘JOLT’ to Succeed at San Diego’s ‘Second Chance’

SAN DIEGO - Armando Aguilar, now a lanky 20-year-old from Oceanside, Calif., needed a job, a break from the gang and drug dealing crazy life. Second Chance got him that job and it also gave him a new start, a real second chance at life.

Second Chance, located deep in the heart of San Diego’s southeast corner, where some of the city’s poorest, predominantly minority neighborhoods are located, was founded in 1993 by Scott Silverman, a dynamic former multi-substance drug addict. Since its founding, Second Chance boasts that it has transitioned more than 5,000 people out of poverty to self sufficiency, including the homeless, substance abusers and folks with prison records.

After first working with adults, it became apparent to Second Chance that the teenage population needed similar services. Indeed, many adults who came through Second Chance’s doors had children also in the juvenile justice system. So, in 2009, Second Chance debuted the Juvenile Options for Lifelong Transition, or JOLT, with the goal of integrating juvenile offenders recently released from residential facilities back into the community. Second Chance received two multi-year grants from the San Diego Workforce Partnership and the San Diego County Probation Department, which works closely with JOLT.

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One Panel at a Time, Changing the World with Comics Journalism

Through boldly inked outlines, soft watercolors, pull-out posters and digital canvases, a new crop of mixed media artists are breaking complex social issues into bite-sized, accessible morsels. From Damascus to Honduras, and even to New York City, these creators are mixing journalism with the comic book format to immerse and engage readers.

Works of comics, or illustrated, journalism are lush, multilayered, and offer new gleanings to readers upon repeat views. They are simultaneously journalism and art in a comic book format, and they are transforming the way the public consumes information.

The creators and organizations associated with this new trend are all committed to comics as a means of furthering the journalistic process. To them, works of “reportage illustration” represent a strong future for journalism, and result in a public that is engaged in vital conversations about issues as complex as the criminal justice system or international affairs.

Comics have the unique ability to pull the reader into a complicated story with savvy, clever visuals. They increase user identification with characters in the story, and, because we can absorb information across multiple channels, they make it easy to dive into something as complicated as student debt and private education—or as culturally important as libraries. Comics make the world easier to understand. They make it easier for readers to learn — and as a result, make it easier to take action.

Comics are also a powerful draw for young readers, and as such, create easy educational entry points. They are one of the few forms of printed work that are increasing in demand and educators are taking notice. Educators have been documenting the benefits and challenges of using comics as classroom tools since the 1940s. But in the last several years, a number of libraries and educational associations have launched events dedicated to fostering learning through comics, including conferences such as Comics, Libraries, and Education: Literacy Without Limits, which is organized by New York state’s Monroe County Library System, or the Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Wildcat Comic Con, which promotes the uses of comics in the classroom.

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Counselors Expect More Undocumented Students to Seek College

Only 5 percent of undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools go on to college, according to an oft-cited 2004 report by the Urban Institute. However, in June President Barack Obama issued an executive order halting the deportation of young undocumented immigrants.

Marty Forth, senior director of teen programming for the YMCA of Greater New York’s 22 branches, now wonders if a wave of teens will be coming to counselors and social workers for the first time looking for help understanding the new rules.

In the past he says these kids kept their status to themselves, now Forth said, “ I think they are going to come out asking for help.

“When they come in they are like everybody else,” said Forth, “Each situation is unique. No matter what — whether you’re legal or illegal — each counseling, each guiding, each hand-holding needs to be different.”

That makes for a daunting task because 15 percent of undocumented immigrants living in the United States are children. That’s 1.8 million children who in many instances grow up unaware of their immigration status. Today an estimated 65,000 young undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools each year.

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Privatization Fails: Nebraska Tries Again to Reform Child Welfare

LINCOLN, Neb. - Foster parent Jenae VanEvery got a call around midnight one day in September 2011 asking if she could take in two sisters — ages 2 and 3 — who had been found living in filth and squalor by Lincoln, Neb. police.

The children were in the custody of the non-profit group KVC, one of the private contractors the state of Nebraska had hired after deciding in 2009 to privatize its child welfare system. VanEvery agreed but said she could not pick up the chil­dren until the next afternoon.

When VanEvery and her husband ar­rived to pick up the children, they were sleeping in a back room – still wearing the urine- and-feces-covered clothing they had on when police took them the day before.

“When we walked in, the 3-year-old woke up and jumped into my arms. I was taken aback by the strong aroma com­ing from her. It made my eyes water, and it was hard to breathe,” VanEvery said. “When we arrived home, we took them straight to the bathroom. The 3-year-old had a cable-knit sweater … that … had rubbed her shoulder blades raw because it had become so saturated in urine and fe­ces that it dried incredibly stiff and rough.

“Her shoes were covered in feces — inside and out,” VanEvery said. “My husband took the clothes straight to the clothes washer, and I started giving them a bath. I had to change the water twice.”

It apparently had been so long since the children were bathed that “they freaked out when I turned the water on,” she said. “This was very scary for them.”

As it was for VanEvery: How, she thought, could caseworkers allow the girls to remain so filthy while in their care?

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