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Finding The Beauty In At-Risk Teens



for original article click here



There is a sad, angsty, misunderstood teenager in all of us. Some of us are just better at letting it show.


So no matter how far past your teenage years you may be, Amy Anderson’s portraits of at-risk teens in Minnesota may take you back to that time in your life when you wished the world could see you differently.


Anderson is an English teacher at Crossroads Alternative High School in Coon Rapids, Minn., a job she got after spending a few years photographing its students in a nearby smoking area. She initially started her portrait series At Risk, With Promise for a photography class in 2007 but continued when she realized the positive impact it was having on the kids.


(The kids are designated “at-risk” when they are admitted to Crossroads High School. In her artist’s statement Anderson describes them as having been “unable to be successful in a traditional school setting.”)


The portraits are a true collaboration between subject and artist. Anderson asks the teens where they want to be photographed, whether by themselves or with others, and then talks with them about composition, lighting and exposure. But it’s her long-term relationships with them that ultimately produce the best results.


“I feel like these portraits took two or three years to make, even though I often [take] only frame of each kid,” she said.


Anderson tracks the teens down in the school hallways to give them a print; she says they get incredibly excited. And parents have thanked her as well, saying how wonderful it is to see their at-risk kids in a different light.


“I’ve seen photography move in a direction where shock and awe is the way we tend to photograph teenagers,” she said. “I was surprised by the response to such gentle work.”


Anderson recently received a Minnesota state arts grant to expand her project and will soon begin following a group of teens beyond the school environment.

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Teach every child about food

04/17/2012 By 


Yesterday, Cristopher Rubio continued the work in raising awareness about diabetes. While one type I diabetes can’t be prevented, type II diabetes can be. And it starts at home and in our communities with the foods that we eat and are teaching our children to eat.


Our society has long promoted the idea that quick and easy meals from fast food restaurants, boxes or the freezer are beneficial, convenient, and healthy for you. In reality, they are full of preservatives and artificial ingredients and other things that shouldn’t be allowed into our bodies. Not only are we lured by the appeal of “quick and easy”, but fast food chains also appeal to both children and adults by including toys and contests that give you the opportunity to win big prizes and cash.


It doesn’t get much better at school or work, where most cafeteria food is fried and mostly carbs. One man trying to actively change how children and adults are educated about food is chef Jamie Oliver through his Food Revolution program. His approach is to make food education a key part of children’s education in schools by interacting with children to teach them about fresh food and vegetables as well as advocating for funding that would allow the lunch staff to provide healthy meals.


If you still think there are any reasons to not buy and cook fresh food, here are some reasons you should:


  • lower grocery bills
  • better health
  • skills that can save your life
  • longer life expectancy
  • higher intelligence


Original article can be found at

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Even youths who offend deserve chance to grow up

By Joshua Sohn  and the Rev. David Kelly


Chicago Suntimes


America stands alone among industrialized nations in telling children as young as 13 that they are beyond hope or redemption. More countries around the world impose sentences of caning, amputation or stoning than impose juvenile life without parole or “JLWOP.” It is intellectually, legally and theologically wrong to punish adolescents for their emotional and psychological immaturity in a manner that denies them the opportunity to grow up and to discover their potential.


To understand this, look no further than Adolfo Davis, who grew up in Washington Park and joined a gang as an adolescent in search of the support and stability that he lacked at home. On the night of Oct. 9, 1990, two months after his 14th birthday, he accompanied two older gang members on what he thought would be a robbery, but instead was a double homicide. Adolfo, who did not shoot anyone, was tried as an adult and convicted under an accountability theory that did not require the prosecution to prove he killed anyone.


He received a mandatory JLWOP sentence and will spend the rest of his life in prison unless Gov. Pat Quinn grants his petition for clemency.


JLWOP is inconsistent with the principles of fairness and proportionality. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution requires that criminal sentences be proportionate to the underlying offenses and reflect “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Ironically, in 1899, Illinois was the first state to create a juvenile justice system, recognizing that kids should be treated differently by courts. This principle has been lost.


JLWOP sentences deny juveniles the potential to grow, develop and be rehabilitated. The theological foundations of Christianity, Islam, Judaism and many other religions recognize that a just punishment allows the offender to be rehabilitated and restored to the community whenever possible.


The United Catholic Bishops wrote that “we cannot tolerate behavior that threatens lives and violates the rights of other. We believe in responsibility, accountability and legitimate punishment.” They go on to say, however, that as a society we do not “give up on those who violate the laws. We believe that both victims and offenders are children of God.”


Both the Supreme Court of Illinois and the U.S. Supreme Court have abolished mandatory JLWOP sentences, but only for certain juveniles.


Illinois’ Supreme Court rejected a JLWOP sentence in People vs. Miller, explaining that a “life sentence without the possibility of parole implies that under any circumstances a juvenile defendant convicted solely by accountability is incorrigible and incapable of rehabilitation for the rest of his life.”


Similarly, in deciding that JLWOP is unconstitutional for non-homicide offenders, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Graham vs. Florida, found that juvenile offenders who did not kill or intend to kill have “diminished moral culpability” and must be provided the opportunity to prove that they are deserving of release: “based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”


Adolfo has grown into a man who contributes to the betterment of society. He has accepted responsibility for his actions, he has reached out to others with similar backgrounds to help them avoid his fate and he has waited for our legal system to confirm that his is a life worth saving.


Despite Adolfo’s tremendous personal growth, he is not the poster child for the rehabilitative ideal that gave birth to the juvenile justice system more than 100 years ago. He is the poster child for its failure.


Joshua Sohn is a partner at DLA Piper and one of Adolfo’s pro bono attorneys, and the Rev. David Kelly is director of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago.

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