18 Year Old Black Girls

18 Year Old Black Girls Still Rise

18 year old black girls are facing a unique set of societal challenges that can impede their progress toward key quality of life goals and the potential for achievement of what poet Maya Angelou eloquently referred to as “Still Rise.”

During its monthly Commission Learning Meetings, The Commission on Black Girls engaged a diverse set of subject matter experts (SMEs) from across Central Ohio who shared their perspectives about issues related to the social determinants of health, educational systems, child welfare and homelessness, juvenile justice, youth development, social media, leadership, and safety. These experts also shared resources and initiatives that can improve Black girl’s overall quality of life experiences in Columbus.

Academic Context

Despite being academically competent and demonstrating a high level of motivation, many Black girls struggle to advance their educational aspirations, a result of pervasive racial and gender inequities. Research reveals that a girl’s academic success is affected by her teacher’s perception of her attitude, abilities, and leadership potential. Teachers are more likely to perceive a student as an adult based on her race, which impacts her ability to be seen and heard.

These factors can negatively impact a student’s sense of self-worth and confidence, especially in the face of challenging situations. This could lead to feelings of failure or shame, which can interfere with a student’s ability to thrive in school and achieve her academic aspirations.

Socioeconomic Conditions

While Black girls are more likely to be born into poverty, they are also more likely to experience adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as physical abuse, emotional neglect, and exposure to drugs or alcohol. This can adversely impact a student’s health, academic performance, and overall quality of life.

Children who are exposed to multiple ACEs are more likely to suffer from poor physical, mental, and behavioral health outcomes. These conditions also put a young person at risk for developing a substance use disorder and/or incarceration.

Juvenile Justice

When a young person is convicted of a crime, it is often in the context of a family situation that has been traumatizing. This could include a parent who is incarcerated or has a history of addiction, or a parent who is mentally ill and/or has had a history of violence in the family.

Moreover, these situations can increase the risk of a youth becoming a victim of crime or experiencing other traumatic events, such as being taken into foster care. For these reasons, it is important for all community members to be knowledgeable about adolescent delinquency and to address these situations as early as possible.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the educational system to ensure that each individual student is given the opportunity to succeed, regardless of her race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and/or gender identity. However, the challenge of addressing this issue can be daunting. To do so, educators need to be equipped with a comprehensive understanding of the complexities associated with race, sex, culture, class, and other underlying social factors that can impact academic success. This means creating and implementing innovative, holistic, systemic approaches that disrupt prevailing disciplinary practices and address systemic societal inequities.

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