As I See It? 7-11
Sunday, June 22, 2008

 A report issued last week by America's Promise Alliance found that in major urban areas in California and across the nation, only half of the students in public school systems receive diplomas. The following short pieces were written by young detainees in San Francisco Bay Area juvenile halls who write for The Beat Within. Many of them have dropped out, are in the process of dropping out, or are struggling to stay in school.

Money and Power

Kids quit school because it gets hard and they fall behind in credits. Sometimes people are influenced on what they see. Sometimes people want things so bad that they do whatever it takes to get it. Take money for example. People want money because not only does it buy you things, it gives you power. The power that money has on people is incredible. If you have lots of power you can make people do whatever you want. One way to make money fast is by selling [drugs]. Once you start seeing how much money you make you want more. And when you start missing school you make more money, but you fall behind in school. Then eventually you have to choose between money and power or school and education. Most young people choose money and power because they see that life is a lot easier when you are selling drugs.

I’m still in school, but I’m behind in credits and back in jail, and so I have a little feeling in me that wants to drop out. It tells me that I should give up and start stackin’ up, but I’m not going to. I’m going to stay in school, finish high school, go to city college for two years then transfer to State.

I Needed Help

Many people drop out of school because they don’t want to sit in a classroom for eight hours a day, and they don’t want to listen to the teachers who tell them what to do. They either feel that that the work is too hard, or they just don’t want to do it. Most people would rather hang out with their homies outside the school than be in it. Also, a lot of teachers don’t want to take the time to help some students that need it more than others. I know I needed help and my teacher was only helping the kids that already knew what they were doing. So I stopped going to school and got my dumb ass locked up.
But I don’t want to be left behind while every one moves on, so I’m going back to school. Also, both my parents didn’t finish high school and I don’t want to be like them and end up in prison because I can’t get a job and then I have to do other stuff for money.
-Lil’ O

I’m a High School Dropout

I am 16, and I dropped out my junior year. I regret it everyday. I dropped out because I ran away from home and I didn’t want the on-campus officer at my school to see me and make me go home. I also regret running away. I ran away because I got in a fight with my grandma and she told me that if I went to school she was going to report me as a runaway. So I told her if she was going to do that anyways, then I wasn’t coming home. I was a runaway for over half a year. Now I am in juvenile hall and plan to return to school as soon as I get out. My parents have already called the school and scheduled for my return. There are only a few months left of school and I will not be able to graduate in time so I will have to go to continuation school and adult school.

Why Kids Drop Out

There are many different reasons why people in high school drop out. A couple of reasons are that their parents are on drugs or they are just less fortunate, so they can’t afford school clothes. When kids come to school with bummy clothes other students make fun of the situation and make that person feel uncomfortable in that type of environment. After a while he gets tired of being a bum so he decides to get away from those types of people and start making money. That’s when he’ll start selling drugs and once he gets a couple dollars he’ll get flashy. Once the girls see the transformation they’ll start trying to get at him and he’ll start feeling better about himself. He’ll think he’s cool just like everybody else. Once guys start seeing him making money and having girls on his jock they’ll start trying to hang with him. He won’t want to be with the bummy people, he’ll want to hang with the cool kids. Long story short, he’ll end up hanging with the wrong crowd and get caught up by the police. With all the drugs he had on him he’ll go to jail for a minute. When he gets out, one of his chicks will come up to him saying she’s having his baby.

Why I Didn’t Go to School

I can’t tell you why kids drop out of school. I can just tell you why I dropped out: drugs, and gangs. And I just got tired of school. I’d rather be kicking it with the homies, snorting some coke or smoking some purple or hooking up with some female. I just got to the point where I said, “screw it” and just did those things everyday, instead of going to school like I should have. The weeks I’ve been here in the hall I realized what I had on the outside-- girls, homies, a loving family, and school. I should have kept attending school. Now I realize that. When I get out of here I guarantee I’m going to be at school.


I stopped going to school because I had a warrant. I thought my parole officer was coming to get me, and I didn’t trust the teachers. My sisters kept on telling me to turn myself in but I was scared.

Life of Tears and Crime

A few years ago I dropped out of school because I ran away from home. I ran away ‘cause I was fighting with my parents and teachers. Since I was sixteen I’ve been a prostitute, and I’ve lived a life of tears and crime. Before being incarcerated I felt nasty, but continued living the life. After coming to jail I realized I was ashamed of myself and the life I was living. Girls are probably going to read this and be like “yah, whatever” because that’s how I acted. But now I’ve seen it all, and I’m ready to change. I’m tired of crying and feeling unloved. I’m tired of fighting for everyone to like me. From this day forward I vow to better myself, ‘cause life on the streets is too hard.

What Kept me In

I never thought about quitting or dropping out of school because school is fun to me. What kept me in is that I want to make something of my self and make my mother proud of me. I’m supposed to be graduating in June from high school. I plan on going to college and study real estate. So when I get out of here I am going to continue going to school and get a job. The only thing that has prevented me was coming to jail. And I don’t plan to come back here.

I thought I was a Thug

I quit school because I thought it was boring and because so much of the work was too hard and I was too embarrassed to ask for help. Also, I got caught selling drugs and doing drugs on the streets. Selling felt good to me and I really didn’t like school after that because I thought I was a thug. But that didn’t lead me anywhere but jail.
-Lil’ Marie


When he went to school
Mama told him every morning pack his heat
Dem boys kill you if you wasn’t cool
So every day
His backpack packed 38
Best friend got shot
So he moved the weight to his waist
Easy to access
So if a ninja test
He could taste heat
So the only thing he learned
Was to hold his gun high
And hope to survive next week


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