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Response to the EGAS approach.

I commend Drs. Bemak, Chung, and Siroskey-Sabdo on their efforts to connect with and empower African American adolescent females. However, I do have some concerns regarding their Empowerment Groups for Academic Success (EGAS) approach to empowering this particular group of students. While I agree with the authors about the challenges that urban schools face with regard to providing a culturally responsive and quality education to culturally diverse and low-income students, I also believe that urban schools are not alone in these challenges. For example, rural schools also struggle with providing culturally responsive and quality education to culturally diverse and low-income students. While the incidents of violence, drug use, teen pregnancy, and delinquency may be higher in urban areas, these very same problems interfere with the educational process for young people all across the country regardless of their location (urban vs. rural).

With that said, I have a few concerns regarding the EGAS approach, at least as it is described in the article. First, I believe that the authors' notion of "at risk" is not only limiting but also stereotypical. Based on my work with children and adolescents in schools and communities, I believe that all children and adolescents are at risk for something. While some may be at risk for school failure, dropping out of school, early parenthood, and substance use and/or abuse, others are at risk for other things, such as racism, parent neglect, teacher low expectations, and a host of other issues. So it's not a matter of whether children and adolescents are at risk or which ones are at risk (i.e., inner-city, African American females), but rather a matter of degree. In addition, a young person's degree of risk also can be contextual or environmental (i.e., the neighborhood in which he or she lives) and even situational. Therefore, the level or degree to which a young person is at risk can change.

My greatest concern with the EGAS approach deals with the makeup of the group of facilitators. I do agree with the authors regarding the necessity and effectiveness of using group counseling with children and adolescents. I'm also in agreement regarding the importance of school counselors being culturally competent and culturally responsive. But based on my work with children and adolescents, I believe it is critical that the facilitators be representative of the students for whom the group is designed. I realize that this may not always be possible in a school setting, especially in light of the low number of school counselors of color--especially African American men. However, in the case of EGAS, I'm a bit surprised that an African American female was not one of the facilitators. In my opinion, it would have added a richness to the experience for the participants and an additional level of understanding for everyone, including the three facilitators. This is not to say that the facilitators were ineffective or that the participants did not benefit from the group experience simply because the facilitators were not African American females, but I do think the potential to misunderstand or not fully understand the experiences of the participants could be a limiting factor.

My final concern has to do with the post-group experience. It's clear that the participants wanted more of what the group provided--a supportive environment and an opportunity to be heard without being judged. The last thing these young women need is another group of adults to enter their lives and then in a relatively short period of time be gone. Again, I commend the authors on their efforts, but I wish they would consider offering more than a short-term fix to a problem that is embedded in the life experience of young people.

Deryl F. Bailey, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Development Services, University of Georgia, Athens.
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Title Annotation:EXTENDED DISCUSSION; Empowerment Groups for Academic Success
Author:Bailey, Deryl F.
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
Words:640
Previous Article:Response to EGAS: An Innovative Approach to Prevent High School Failure for At-Risk, Urban African American Girls.
Next Article:Group counseling: beyond the traditional.
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