7 months ago
Every 26 seconds, a student drops out of high school.
Charles “Frog” Phillips; Montgomery, Alabama
“I dropped out in the ninth grade. I went to jail that summer. I was fifteen,” said Charles “Frog” Phillips when we talked on his front porch in the Washington Park neighborhood, on Montgomery’s west side. “I was more concerned with my reputation in the streets and making money than I was with school.”
Phillips, now 30, grew up in various housing projects with a single mother who was addicted to crack cocaine and a younger sister, Crystal, who also dropped out of high school.
He says that while he liked school when he was young—participated in spelling bees and playing football—he didn't feel that he was wanted there.
“Teachers just pass kids on without an education just to get them out of the classroom, so they don't have to deal with them. There’s something wrong with that,” he said.
At age 10, Phillips joined a gang. Gang members provided the sense of family that he was missing and they encouraged him to sell drugs. By the age of 15 he had dropped out and was committed to being a full time gang member.
Though Phillips committed to turning his life around, after four years in prison, and getting shot in the hip when he was 20, he cannot find work, in part because he does not have a high school diploma. He hasn’t had a job in nine months.
“I've learned a lot since I dropped out of high school, one mistake can mess up your whole life,” Phillips says. “When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a detective or a firefighter. Now I dream of showing my kids a better example of what they can be in life, how important it is to graduate from high school.”
Red; Richmond, California
By Sara Lafleur-Vetter.
Red is 20 years old. He was born at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, but grew up all over the East Bay: Oakland, Richmond, and Antioch. He is the middle child, with a younger brother in school and an older brother hustling in the streets, like him.