What’s Your Major; I am an Activist
One Student’s Hope of Creating Social Change
By Beatrice Pollard, University of Georgia
Ever since I was young, I’ve dreamed big. Fantastic notions of the future filled my head and I changed my “career” as often as my clothing. People have always told me that if I worked hard, I could achieve anything and these possibilities flourished in my mind at a young age. As I continue to grow older, I have found my niche through working with others in the community. It is that passion that drove me to add Psychology as a major. This was a method to better understand people before I can use a law degree to help them. Up until my second semester of freshman year I thought I had it all figured out, until my first legal internship shattered my Nancy Drew dreams. While I quickly learned my career track would be no Law and Order, the opportunity proved to be beneficial toward my career path by allowing me the chance to work hands-on in the community’s criminal justice system. The internship allowed me to receive a real-world perspective on poverty and inequality in my own backyard. It truly hurt my heart to view the various crimes within the community and the disparity stemming from the lack of facilitation towards African-American children within the school system. It was this exposure that taught me the real implications of inequality within our vital institutions and has since motivated me to take the respective Sociology courses that would channel my passions under one discipline.
My experience during my internship was especially humbling as I had the chance to interact with people of a lower socio-economic class and receive an inside look at the flaws within the education system. I sat through the trials of countless young black boys and girls who seemingly committed crimes in order to get the attention they were lacking at home. Tragically enough, many of the African-American boys and girls of 16 and 17 were still in middle school, their education stunted by the lack of adequate parental guidance in the home and facilitation at the schools. Unfortunately the majority of the youth were also in reform school, potentially to be lost in a sea of crime that awaits the restless child bound by restrictions.
Exposing myself to these issues allowed me to question the problems faced and assess the “under the surface” causes of inequality in the institution of education that often stems from disproportionate funding of public schools and the problems that can result from this disparity. Because of the lack of funds in poor cities, school systems have little resources to deplete on “problem children”, often leaving them to instead become victims of the justice system. During this experience, I felt as if Dr. Ganem’s Juvenile Delinquency course was coming to life as I had the opportunity to view this adversity in living color. Seeing the effects that issues such as the disproportionate number of black arrests have on poor communities has become a cause that I know I can actively fight mostly because of the persistence of my Sociology professors who taught me to question all that I see and to never turn a blind eye.
Questioning various disparities within the community is one of the most important steps of personal growth that one can obtain because only through critique and reflection can progress occur. As Martin Luther King once said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity”, and I seek to uphold myself to this standard in days to come. My experience that summer opened my eyes to a more critical analysis of the social issues that saturate our country today, specifically inequality in vital social institutions. Now, not only am I more aware of the challenges that face a community at risk, but I am certain I can take those steps to understand the problem in order to uncover future solution as a policy maker. Because the University of Georgia is a research institution, it provides the opportunities for students like me need to go off on their own in hopes of creating social change. While I might not discover the cure, I will work steadfastly in promoting a deeper awareness and sometimes –that’s all it takes.
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