MIDDLE SCHOOL CAN BE ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING PERIODS IN A KID'S LIFE. ADD IN HAVING A PARENT IN PRISON, AND LIFE CAN BE OVERWHELMING.
In the Houston Metro Area alone, more than 43,000 middle school age children have had an incarcerated parent. It is a hidden epidemic. Even if they don't talk about having a mom or dad in prison, the shame and emotional scars are still there. GEMS shows middle school students that the past doesn't have to define their futures.
WHY MIDDLE SCHOOL?
Middle school is when children are most at risk of getting off track. Depression starts to emerge. Kids join gangs or get caught for crimes for the first time. Truancy and low grades put them on the path to dropping out.
in middle school
The challenges facing these students are systemic. The answer is to support the whole child by working together with schools, families, and the community.
Neuroscientists say students go through a critical stage of brain and emotional development in middle school. It is when they learn impulse control, critical thinking, and relationship skills they need to thrive as adults. Traumatized children may not develop to their full potential without intervention.
GEMS Students come to a weekly class where an instructor helps them discover the tools to manage emotions, make healthy decisions, and focus on the future. Through exercises and discussion, they pick up the skills that lead to healthy social, emotional, and brain development.
Study after study shows that the biggest factor in a child's success in school and in later life isn't family income or background. It is the level of involvement from parents and other caregivers. Students with involved caregivers get better grades, miss fewer classes, and exhibit better behavior. They are more likely to graduate.
But that is very difficult for families where one parent may be in prison and the other parent is struggling to make ends meet. Simply putting food on the table may be challenging. That's why one of GEMS goals is to be a supportive partner with parents and caregivers, helping to connect families with resources and working together to ensure their children's success.
One recent survey found that the majority of students said they were bored or tired in school. Disengaged students get into trouble, Their grades suffer. That is especially important in middle school, when early adolescents are discovering who they are and how they fit into the world. That is why they are so likely to be swayed by negative influences, like gangs and antisocial behavior.
But they are also very open to positive influences. Studies show that adult role models can help students discover the gifts they bring to the world. We work to provide those role models, because we know it takes a community to help a child grow into a healthy adult.