Sunday, March 25, 2007

Time to break cycle of learned helpnessness and seek outside assistance

Letter to the editor: A child left behind
San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 2007, pg. B8.

Editor -- I'm 57, a third-generation San Franciscan. I grew up in public housing in Sunnydale, Hunters Point and Double Rock until we were evicted, then in various ghetto neighborhoods. I never graduated from high school, I dropped out in the 10th-grade.

When I was around 10 years old, an unknown man broke into our house and raped me while my mother was asleep. He continued to rape me for several years. He was never caught, and I stopped telling my mother or the police each time he raped me after the man warned me that he was watching and would kill everyone in the house.

Subsequently, my school grades suffered tremendously. I kept failing class after class and was put into courses for incorrigible students. Not one teacher asked me if anything was wrong, or offered me any extra help, except for Ms. Holmlund. She was my eighth-grade home-economics teacher.

She saved my life. She believed in me. Nevertheless, I didn't graduate even though I was accepted at Lowell. My nerves were too shot and I had no support. I felt totally alienated and afraid.

Today, I have an adopted daughter who is 17 years old. Her fragile and precious life has been an emotional whirlwind. Both of her biological parents are crack addicts. My daughter has attempted suicide several times, as has her sister in foster care.

These girls will probably not graduate from high school either. It's ironic, because so many years have passed between my helpless situation and theirs. One would think that here, in progressive San Francisco, we should be doing a little better by our children. It seems as though, if you're not exceptionally bright, gifted, into sports, or whatever, you'll be left behind, just like I was, more than 40 years ago.

CARNELLA GORDON-BROWN
San Francisco

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