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Rotary, schools fight against poverty, gangs

The Selma Rotary Club and Selma City Schools will announce a new partnership on Monday Aug. 27 to help combat violence, gangs and the various forms of social decay caused by high levels of poverty among Selma’s youth.

Members of both entities will meet at 12:15 p.m. at the Selma High School Media Center to announce their plans.

Rotary Club President Jerria Martin said that out of the 3,060 students enrolled in Dallas County Schools during the 2016-2017 school year, 76 percent of the students are black or African-American.

“Poverty is prevalent among these students,” she wrote in a press release adding that 86.1 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced lunches compared to 59.2 percent of students in Alabama.

According to Martin, from 2009-2013, 35.5 percent of people in Dallas County were living in poverty.

In breaking down that statistic by race, the number jumps to 44.9 percent for African-Americans. Out of the 67 counties in the state of Alabama, Dallas County is the 65th worst county for people living in poverty.

Martin also said 57.2 percent of children live in poverty or 66.3 percent for African-Americans.

Dallas County is ranked 67th out of 67 counties for this statistic, according to Martin.

She said 6.8 percent of students in the 2013-2014 school year were homeless compared to 3.2 percent in the state, according to the 2015 Kids Count Data Book.

“Consequences of poverty in Dallas County include the high crime and violence rate and low neighborhood attachment,” said Martin. “The Youth Experience Survey administered to Selma City Schools sixth, eighth, tenth and twelfth-grade students in 2015 reported that 58 percent of sixth-grade students report a low neighborhood attachment; 39 percent of eighth-grade students report a low neighborhood attachment; 53 percent of tenth-grade students report a low neighborhood attachment and 60 percent of twelfth-grade students report a low neighborhood attachment.”

Along with Martin, Dr. Avis Williams, superintendent of Selma City Schools and co-chair of the Youth Empowerment Committee for the Rotary Club and Bob Kelley, the founder of Tally-Ho Restaurant and the other co-chair of the Youth Empowerment Committee will comment on programs that will be put in action to help change these statistics.