On June 16, 2012, my intern invited me to attend Refugee Day with him at San Diego’s Balboa Park. I did not hesitate. He and his family came to America from a refugee camp in Thailand over four years ago. They have been in the City Heights neighborhood in San Diego ever since. In this 15-square mile neighborhood, there are 80 countries represented and over 60 languages spoken. As I watch the children dance, their native dance, I looked around at all of the faces of other refugees who were in attendance and thought to myself, “Wow America is a place of refuge.”
We can look at the news and see devastating pictures of people suffering from all over the world, but have we looked in our own backyard? We may not have tent cities, but we do have many youth who are suffering in a society that is supposed to be moving forward and not leaving anyone behind. Youth who come from low to below the poverty line households are more likely to suffer educationally than those who are not being raised in moderate to middle class income homes. Following, is some food for thought. According to the Alliance for Education, 2010 Fact Sheet:
What Are the Costs of Dropping Out of High School?
- Dropouts suffer from reduced earnings and lost opportunities; there are also significant social and economic costs to the rest of the nation.
- Over the course of his or her lifetime, a high school dropout earns, on average, about $260,000 less than a high school graduate.11
- Dropouts from the Class of 2010 alone will cost the nation more than $337 billion in lost wages over the course of their lifetimes.12
- If the United States‘ likely dropouts from the Class of 2006 had graduated, the nation could have saved more than $17 billion in Medicaid and expenditures for uninsured health care over the course of those young people‘s lifetimes.13
- If U.S. high schools and colleges were to raise the graduation rates of Hispanic, African American, and Native American students to the levels of white students by 2020, the potential increase in personal income would add more than $310 billion to the U.S. economy.14
- Increasing the graduation rate and college matriculation of male students in the United States by just 5 percent could lead to combined savings and revenue of almost $8 billion each year by reducing crime-related costs.15
What is America doing to assist the new face of the refugee—the poor and disenfranchised youth we see each day? What are we doing to encourage the 12-year-old child who cannot read or complete a simple arithmetic problem? Have you helped a “refugee” today?
Portia Dawson defines her purpose as “empowering young women to stand up and be counted” and to also help girls “do the right thing” and avoid the relationship pitfalls she overcame. Portia is a Mentor Program Administrator for the National Police Athletic Leagues (P.A.L.) and based in San Diego, Calif. In this role, Portia developed a group that builds relationships with women who education, knowledge and passion for success. By this, she believes each young person’s life can be improved for healthier living by self-acknowledgment, self-assertion and self-confidence. In addition to a strong mental health field career, Portia works closely with the Latino Youth Council, The San Diego Oceans Foundation, Community Housing Works, and The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the San Diego Department of Education. Portia has served with the Women of L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P. 1ST since May 2011.