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What to Do about Carter, 11, Man of the Family | Rick Outzen

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What to Do about Carter, 11, Man of the Family | Rick Outzen

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What to Do about Carter, 11, Man of the Family
Thursday, August 16, 2012 — Rick Outzen

The phone call has become all too common for Coach Lumon May. Over his 20-plus years of coaching young kids from the poorest neighborhoods of Escambia County, May has helped hundreds of boys and girls deal with the realities of poverty. A few, like Trent Richardson, the third pick in the recent NFL draft, achieved athletic success.

The latest call came from one of his players, Carter, age 11.

Last fall Carter’s mom was arrested for selling drugs to pay her boyfriend’s bail. The family was kicked out of public housing and had to move in with the grandmother. After she got probation, May helped arrange decent housing for the family. And if they came up short, he sometimes bought food and helped with other expenses—not much money, $20 here and there.

Now Carter, not his real name, was calling his coach looking for help. His mother had been arrested for using a stolen credit card and violating her probation. His two sisters had been taken by the state. His brothers were staying with an aunt. He was living with his father, who had just gotten out of prison after serving eight years.

Carter felt alone and wanted help finding his siblings. He might not be able to take care of them, but somehow, he wanted to provide for them. He was the oldest and saw it as his duty.

The day he shared this story with me, May had attended the funeral of another former player, who’d been killed outside his mother’s house. Law enforcement suspected a drug deal gone wrong.

“I’m tired of going to funerals,” he said.

And he fears for Carter.

He worries the boy will be tempted to get money for his family taking the same route followed by too many others. He will first become a runner for a drug dealer, then work his way up to selling drugs. Older teens will rob him. He will harden himself. School will become the least of his worries. He will slip up and with a criminal record, get expelled or placed in some alternative education program.

Carter will buy a gun and either kill or be killed.

“People don’t understand what these kids are dealing with,” said May.

He’s right. Poor parenting, unstable families and tough environments incubate youth crime. 

But what good does knowing that do Carter?

Yes, he has terrible parents, but simply pointing that out doesn’t solve the problem. We must rethink our public education and social services to save the Carters of this state.

Until we do, Coach May will keep getting those phone calls.

Rick Outzen is the publisher/editor of Pensacola's Independent News.

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