Sports Has Always Been A Ticket Out

As I conclude this blogging series I would like to start off reminding the readers of the purpose of this blog and its evolved purpose. At the beginning of this series the purpose of this blog was to shine light on the civic issues that I find very important that puts urban areas in a disadvantage due to location, demographics, and economy. In this series, I have dived deeper into these problems on an emotional, political, economic, and personal level. Now as the series is coming to an end I believe it has also evolved another purpose. In addition, to shining light on the issues of urban areas this series has also allowed me to express the reason why I am the way I am about particular things. Though all the things that I mentioned were not my story some of the things I have personally experienced. This series allowed me to confidently expressed myself. The last topic that I will be touching on is something that I strongly believe in and above all things mentioned I hold most dear to me.

How do we escape?

Image result for basketball in urban areasSports has always been a ticket out. In Many urban areas sports, has allowed for many young man and women to escape the violence and hardships of the urban streets. Whether it be for only a min or for the rest of their lives sports for some was the only reason they are not incarcerated or dead today. As I previously mentioned I, myself, am from a suburban area and I honestly believe that sports saved me. As for the rest of my family that did not have the luxury of living in a suburban area lived and live in what we call the “gutter” of the “hood” and without a doubt their involvement in sports are keeping them out of a lot of trouble. For instance, I have an older cousin that everyday must pass the temptations of drug dealing and hustling however he chooses to play football, baseball, and baseball instead. His dedication and love for these sports and teams wills him every day to pass the temptations and instead better himself via playing sports.

By being active on the team he has learned many life lessons. While he practices and participates in his games he may not realize it but he was learning how to be confident, a part of a team, responsible, driven, timely, etc. These are all things that if he would have chosen to not play a sport he would have had to learn a different way or not at all. Fortunately, this is not just his story but this is the story of many young men and women that live in urban areas. In fact, is proven that increasing activity in the community is a way to better the community as a whole and lower crime rates.

In addition to the overall improvement of the community, sports overall better the health of the community physically and mentally. As I mention in one of my previous blogs, Urban Areas and Mental Health, sports also improve the mental health. This due to the strong bonds that are formed when playing on a team. Simply by feeling like you are a part of something has been proven to better ones’ self-image and confidence.

Image result for basketball in urban areasBecause so many people are aware of the effect of sports in urban areas there are many organizations, such as the Urban Sports Athletics, that are predominantly working in urban areas with the goal of bettering the community and are becoming very successful. For instance, Urban Sports Athletics instills a very important message in the youth, “hard work pays off”, and it is known that support like this has saved many young minds.

With that being said, as we finally conclude this series I ask that you reread this series and note the solutions to these many issues at the end of each blog and try to be a part of the solution. It is everyone’s job to help better each other. Thank you for following this series and I hope you take a look at some of my other blogs.

Sexual Health in Urban Areas

In many areas, sexual health tends to be a very big issue. For instances, on college campuses there tends to be a lack of sexual education and increasing numbers of STDs and STIs. Recently, there was a deliberation held on the issues of sexual education and sexual health on campuses, such as Penn State. This deliberation touched on the fact that main young people lack sexual education. After hearing the audience voice their opinion I realized that this is not just an issue of the university but this is a bigger issue. For instance, in urban areas there is also a lack of sexual education and awareness. This poses a problem when approximately 2 out of 3 people reported to be sexually active by the 12th grade in urban areas.

With an influx in STDs and AIDs in those who are sexually active it is important to address the lack of sexual education in the urban communities. In the 1980s a HIV epidemic started and infected the urban communities in devastation ways. According to the CDC the HIV epidemic has cause  HIV prevalence rates to be <1% in the general population, but >5% in at least one high-risk subpopulation, such as MSM, IDUs, commercial sex workers (CSWs), or the clients of CSWs. Many who are apart of the high-risk subpopulation live in urban areas thus causing dangerous situations for those who are unaware of the issue, especially the youth who are not taught how to engage in safe sexual activity.

It is important to remember that this is a worldwide issue for urban areas. For instance, in Cambodia HIV is running rapid in children due to prostitution. Because of the poverty that many of the Cambodians are living in they are forced to earn money in dangerous ways, such as prostitution. “Mothers engage in riskier sex acts to feed their children, but because they are socially shunned or threatened with arrest, they often cannot get drugs that would prolong their lives or prevent them from infecting their babies.” Unfortunately this is not the story that just holds validity in Cambodia but in the United States as well.

Personally, I believe that this lack of sexual education and resources causes an huge disparity in urban areas across the world. HIV is just one of the many STDs that can run rapid. Being that sex is such a common activity in general and even more so in urban areas I believe that there should be more talk about how to stay safe while engaging in sexual intercourse, what are the risk, and how STDs and STIs are transmitted.

Just as on college campuses there are a few programs that are implemented to try and promote better sexual and reproductive health. For instance, studies show that by keeping busy with other things, other than sex, can lower transmission of STDs and poor sexual habits. Think about it when you are bored you seek pleasure and the more you seek pleasure in things such as sex the more chances you have to contract a STD or STI.

Studies also show that if you live in a more productive and well keep physical environment then you are more likely to practice better sexual activity. This seems to be a very valuable trend because a better physical environment also betters mental health as well. (For more information of mental health and its effect on the urban area take a look at my Unban Areas and Mental Health blog.)

In addition to studies, in my personal experience I have noticed that sexual awareness and safe practices has declined due to two main issues. There are more hospitals closing or being bought by private companies which hinder the people in the community from getting the care they need because they cannot afford it. The second reason that I have noticed is that the care facilities that are present in the community are not up to par. They consist of doctors who practices poor hospitality, the facilities are unclean, over crowded, and out dated. By these mere factors sexual and reproductive health is compromised. With that I strongly believe that there needs to be a strong movement towards better sexual education very soon, before our urban communities are faced with an even bigger health issue.

Marijuana Deliberation Review

On February 28th, 2017, I attend a deliberation titled Marijuana. This deliberation was held at 7pm to 8:30 PM in Asendorf Hall, Faith United Church of Christ. The main focus of a deliberation is to provide place where students and community members can gather to discuss a series of important topics that affect us all. This specific deliberation focused on the question of whether or not the marijuana should or should not be illegal. In addition, the question of if this is a state of federal issue arouse.

Posed questions

As for whether or not marijuana should or should not be illegal most of the audience agreed that it should. They often compared marijuana to tobacco and used the argument that if tobacco is legal then so should marijuana. Another argument that was posed is that by legalizing marijuana the state/federal government could better regulate the quality of marijuana. This could help get rid of lased and dangerous production of marijuana. One of the audience members compared making marijuana illegal to when alcohol, was banned and how that made the consumption of poor quality liquor increase; which is extremely dangerous. Lastly many brought up the argument that in the purest form marijuana never killed or harmed anyone; in fact, in some instances it has helped cured some people.

The second main question that was brought up was if this issue of legalization is a federal or state issue. The consensus from the audience varied. Some felt that this issue was not important or vital enough to be a federal issue. Other thought that it should be a federal issue because by allowing it to be a state issue it is causing issues between states because people that come from states where marijuana is legal are bring marijuana to states where marijuana is illegal. Personally, I believe that this issue should be federal however, I do not believe that currently this is an issue that will hold priority in the current white house.

Overall review

Overall, the deliberation group did not take a side on either one of the issues, which was a good thing because it allowed the audience to form their own opinions. Though at first it was quite difficult to get the audience to engage, after a few questions the audience got comfortable and rather than the deliberation group just talking at us we had an extensive conversation. The most interesting conversation in my opinion was when we were speaking about how the government would regulate marijuana distribution if it were to become legal. How would insurance policies cover medicinal marijuana? Would Marijuana be taxes? These are just a few of the questions that the audiences discussed.

The only cons that I had about the deliberation was the environment and the lack of concrete facts. Personally, I felt that the tight room did not allow for everyone to see everyone which in some ways limited the conversation. As for the lack of facts, I felt that there could have been more numbers or factual data about how marijuana effects people in government and people in their daily lives. Despite these two cons I thought that the overall deliberation was very interesting and well executed.

Urban Area and Mental Health

Image result for urban areas and mental health 2016Until the age of 7 I grew up in an urban area then moved to a suburban area. I remember being taught that one must be tough especially when it came down to dealing with family matters. Growing up with such a big family from an urban area there tended to always be something going on. However, as children we were always taught not to talk about our problems to others. I vividly remember being told “what happens in this house stays in this house” and a lot happened in that house. However, I realized that within my other family members house there were a lot more happening. The difference was in my house we talked about our issues amongst ourselves, especially once we moved, but in my family members’ house issues were rarely spoken about.

It gotten to a point that I realized that there were possibility mental illnesses being formed. But remember there’s an unwritten rule; “what happens in this house stays in this house”.  I noticed that mental illness wasn’t even an option. Then I realized this wasn’t just something that was going on within my family. After finding interest in this topic I realized that in urban areas there are high rates of mental issues but they aren’t really addressed.

Image result for newark new jersey and mental healthStudies say that some of the reasons that mental illnesses aren’t reported is because victims are afraid they would not be taken serious, they may be made fun of, or they would be thought of being weak. In addition, there is a lack of awareness and funding in these areas for mental illnesses.  

Before we talk about why mental issues aren’t being handled in urban areas I ask where do they originate from?

Many the mental illnesses that urban residents acquire originate from seeing struggle and heinous violence day to day. For instance, 47% of African Americans in urban areas have witnesses murder; 75% witness robbery, stabbing, shooting, or homicide within their elementary to high school years. In general, the crime rates in urban areas are entirely more than in rural areas.

In addition to these horrific statistics, per the National Institute of mental Health 1 out of 3 African Americans who need mental health care actually receive the care they need. I strongly believe this is due to the lack of awareness mental health has in urban areas.

For instance, very few people know what causes mental health issues. Do you?

Mental health issues are caused by stress. Stress is the unspecific physiological and psychological reaction to perceived threats to our physical reaction, psychological or social integrity. In urban areas people tend to have a survive not live mentality. the don’t feel they have their “own” space and violence is constantly all around them. Though these issues may not seem like the are directly effecting urban resident’s mental health it is known that it is.

This is starting to become a huge issue for Americans because America is showing signs of moving towards creating more urban areas due to the fast pace lifestyle that we are starting to acquire. There is research showing that there is a 20% increase in anxiety and 40% increase in mood disorder rates in urban areas.

Due to these alarming rates of mental health deficiencies increasing there are organizations that are working to improve mental health in urban areas. Take The Urban Mental Health Alliance (UMHA) , they are a non-profit organization that advocates for the wellness and mental health of urban families and communities. The UMHA offers an 8-hr training course where one could get certified in mental health first aid. This course teaches how to help someone who is developing a mental issue or experiencing a mental health crisis.

In addition to helping those with the mental issue there are programs that work to make the environment of urban areas more conducive to healthy mental stability. For instance, there is an organization that works to make urban areas visually more attractive. Have you heard that when you are around nicer things you feel better? That’s that goal of these types of organizations. They also work towards creating more discussions and better health care facilities.

Personally, I know simply bring awareness to mental health will help people like those in my family that live in urban areas. Thus, simple awareness is empowering and can be lifesaving.


Where does the Urban Education System Leave My Friends?

In today’s America the educational system is consistently being called into question. There is always debate on how to regulate the different districts’ educational systems. It is not uncommon of for colleges to report that they have many students with various learning curves. Unfortunately, those with the largest learning curves tend to be from urban areas. Personally, I am from a suburban area and had a fairly good education however, now that I am in college I see that some of my friends that are from urban areas, such as New York City, Philadelphia, Detroit, or Newark, struggle in major academic areas. For instance, I have witness one of my good friends go from being valedictorian in their high school to catastrophically struggling in STEM courses such as chemistry and math. Many professionals who look at the education systems in urban areas say this disadvantage is due to unqualified teachers and lack of funding. For instance, in the mathematic department many of those who teach have degrees in disciplines other than math.

In an era where professions in STEM field are promoted, students from urban areas are at a serious disadvantage. It is reported that many of the public schools in these areas have inadequate labs. Many of which are outdated and have very limited supplies which hinder the students’ education significantly. Though it may not be directly obvious because of these limitations in urban schools many students do not see STEM fields as viable professions for them. Thus, while the rest of the schools in suburban and rural areas are promoting professions in STEM fields urban schools are, unfortunately, hindering the ideology that STEM field professions are obtainable.

Beyond the inadequate labs and text books urbans schools tend not to teach the skills needed to be successful in the work place. It is seen that countless students from urban areas do not know how to go on an interview, send a proper email, or create a professional resume. In many suburban areas, these skills are taught in computer classes however in urban areas there is a lack in up-to-date technology which makes teaching professionalism a challenge. Therefore, when students from urban schools enter college and it is time to interview for jobs or summer internships they have a much larger learning curve than their counter parts.

Due to the fact that the inequalities between educational systems is no secret there are quite a few approaches that have been formulated to improving the educational system as a whole.

The number one thing that is needed is funding and policy changes. By increasing the funding of public school, specifically, and requiring certified teachers to teach their respective subjects there will be a great improvement in the educational system as a whole. In addition to more funding and sufficient teaches, an update in technology in these schools is vital. Studies have shown that better computer programs/software motive students to learn. For instance, subjects such as physics taught with computer program supplements interest students more, which lead to more success learning.

The environment of which a student learns is vital as well. Imagine learning in the freezing cold or the stifling heat in an overcrowded classroom. This is unfortunately the environment that some urban schools teach in. By upgrading the schools to state of art buildings can vastly improve the learning in urban areas.

So are there any programs or organizations that work towards improving these conditions? There are!

Programs such as Michigan State University’s (MSU) Teachers Urban Education Program teach teachers how to teach urban students. There are also organizations such as Facing History and Ourselves who hold symposiums to teach how maintain safe and progressive environments and recruit teachers to teach in urban. For example, the Engaging Education: Full Day Conference in Memphis invites 400 scholars, teachers, administrators, and reformers from different disciplines together to discuss these topics.

By supporting organizations and programs like those previous mentioned there will be a vast improvement the diversity in the STEM field. Urban students will be able to aspired to bigger and greater things. There will be less students like my friend who come from urban areas that struggle in academia due to their academic background. Therefore, we will no longer have a loss generation of scholars that could contribute significantly to society.