Inner-city children and the inner-city schools they attend are catching the attention of many across the country. It is clear that there is a problem. Dropout rates of inner-city kids remain high. There are still many schools where graduation rates are lower than 50 percent. It is an alarming truth. More than one million students drop out every year. Dropout rates are an epidemic and should be addressed as such.

Just last Thursday President Bush spoke at a summit about faith-based inner-city schools. He addressed the decline in faith-based schools, which he credits with helping inner-city children through their struggles. Bush said that “in neighborhoods were some people say children can’t learn, faith-based schools are proving the nay-sayers wrong.”

But, if these schools work so well, why are so many closing?

As the cost of living rises, families with salaries below the poverty level struggle to pay their bills. In order to help their families, many young students dedicate more time to working than to their studies.

Trying to fix the problem with high schools is starting too late. The best way to help get young men and women into colleges and universities is to start helping children in grade school and to begin building foundations. We need to move beyond looking at just the now and instead focus on creating solutions that will last for generations to come. As if the current situation weren’t bad enough, populations in America’s large cities are growing, leading to an increased number of kids in inner-city schools.

Unfortunately, more time is being spent in addressing behavioral problems than is spent on enriching the minds of these students. If students felt comfortable within the walls of their school, it would make them much more willing to spend time learning. Studying becomes much more difficult when students need to worry about their safety as much as they need to concentrate on their schoolwork.

Imagine going into school and having to walk through metal detectors, having your bags searched and being patted down. It doesn’t make the environment itself feel at all safe. This goes to show that there are issues that need to be addressed outside of school. It is unfair that an educator should have to take time away from a lesson plan to address safety issues in the classroom, or to address any physical conflicts in the classroom. There are issues beyond the classroom that require attention. Growing up as inner-city kids adds many other situations that these children are forced to deal with. The kids have to learn to survive the streets. Even a walk to school can be dangerous.

Problems are continuously masked by the increasing number of students graduating high school and going on to college in rural and suburban areas, but this doesn’t mean that the problem is going away. There is a solution, but for it to work, we all need to take part. We can take the initiative to turn these statistics around. The students in inner-city schools need to know that there is a way through, that college isn’t just a fairy tale.

We should not wait around for somebody to deal with the situation in the near future. If we don’t take initiative, who will? No change will happen if we all wait for someone else to take control. Helping even one student through high school and into college already makes a difference. The advance of change is so important for the future of these students, and for the future of our nation.

Schools keep closing down. More and more students are being hindered from meeting their own capabilities. These students aren’t going to college because they don’t want to, but because they either don’t know they can make it or nobody has helped show them the way there. There isn’t only one path to college, and many inner-city kids might have to struggle to make it there but the possibility is there. The resources are there, and we need to help them access them.

Karina Ramirez is a sophomore in the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

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