From CEOs for Cities blog at

This week’s Sunday papers from around the country told a sad story about African-American children in America.

The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times examined two shootings in Englewood on Chicago’s South Side. Siretha White was shot dead at a party for her 11th birthday, only nine days after 14-year-old Starkesia Reed was shot and killed standing at her window.

Miami-Dade County police, motivated by school officials who are strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy, arrested 2,284 students during the past school year. But only 12 percent of those arrests were for serious crimes involving weapons or drugs. The majority of the arrests – about 70 percent — were for disorderly conduct and a host of misdemeanor offenses, graffiti marketings and disturbing the peace. According to the Miami Herald, 54 percent of students arrested were black, although black students make up 28 percent of the district’s enrollment. Police and judges lobbied school leaders for alternatives to arresting students who approved civil citations wich is more aligned with the philosophy of community policing.

One young man who would likely now be hanging on the street corner if he had faced a zero tolerance policy is Shawne Williams, the star freshman for the University of Memphis number one seed basketball team. Commercial Appeal sports columnist Geoff Calkins told the story of Shawne and his older brother Ramone who grew up on the mean streets of inner city Memphis. Ramone was killed a year ago, victim of a shooting in a place he shouldn’t have been. Shawne beat the odds and ended up in college.

Williams told Calkins, “I liked standing on the street corner. That, to me, was fun. I wanted to be something to a bunch of nobodies, because then I thought I’d be somebody. I wanted to be King of the ‘Hood.”

He spent so much time on the corner, he flunked out of high school. But because of his talent, he had a second chance to complete high school and enter college. Now, he says, “College is fun.”

As Williams explained, “Most kids, they don’t understand. I didn’t understand. If you grow up that way, you think it’s fate. If I could tell them anything, it’s that your dream doesn’t become a reality until the end.”

How do we give children a better chance at life?

It’s not easy, but here are some promising programs:

After School Matters
Citizen Schools