Poverty, drugs and the lack of opportunities in the neighborhood made it difficult for Sampson Davis and his friends to visualize going to college. Davis, one of the three main characters in the book The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream grows up in a culture of crime and drugs where young people’s route out of poverty is to take part in crime rings. The three men grew up in a place that did not encourage college education. Young people did not think there was hope so they just followed what the older boys were doing. My paper seeks to examine why Sam and the young people in his college did not believe that it was possible for them to go to college. The argument put forward is that poverty makes people believe that everything is impossible. People are convinced the system does not work for them.
The lack of role models or individuals in the neighborhood who had made it out of the crime infested neighborhood made it difficult for Sam and his friends to visualize a way out. The young men observes that “there were no doctors or lawyers walking the streets of our communities” (2). In a world without role models, Sam did not think that it was possible for him to go to college. College was an anathema, something beyond the imagination of young people growing up among drug dealers. It is apparent that it was easier for Sam and his friends to emulate and respect drug dealers than doctors or lawyers. The older people Sam knew were involved in some crime related activities.
Sam was already involved in selling crack and crime rings and his friends thought that there was no way he was leaving the easy drug money life for college. In addition to selling drugs, Sam also hung around older guys who had not been to college. It was hard for him to think that he would be the first one to do what everybody else had failed to do. When Sam starts hanging out with the older guys in the neighborhood, they propositioned that he sell some crack and make a little money (89). This makes the beginning of trouble that leads to detention. Davis observes that that he grew up in a place that did not offer hope for anything. He says that “the projects had a reputation for regular stabbings, muggings, and shootings, but the 1980s, the decade when I came of age, would in a level of crime and violence that would make it hard for me to imagine surviving to the age of twenty-five” (17). This is a description of an environment that made dreaming about college difficult. What is disheartening about this description is how it sounds normal. It is a description of horrific occurrences in the three young men’s neighborhood. There is an element of hopeless in this part of the world. Crime and poverty are the order of the day and not shocking to people who were lived in this area. The idea that young people were lucky to make it to twenty-five shows why it is challenging to envisage a normal future for Sam and his friends. What is normal to them is a different experience, an experience which includes not graduating from high school and becoming part of the problem in the neighborhood when one starts peddling drugs.
Sam’s crime history also made him to believe that college was not achievable. Sam already had a crime record and this was going to work against him in his application for college. He had been to a detention center and people who went there did not have a brighter future. The kind of job that Davis did was not enough to help him pay for college (87). He was not sure he would afford college as well. Sam was aware that his criminal record would affect the perception of the admissions committee. They were going to consider an applicant with a cleaner record.
The absence of stability especially in terms of family is also a reason why envisioning college was difficult for Sam. His father and mother had separated when he was young (21). Even though his father remained part of his life, he did not live with his family. Family is the core of social organization and it is important for the success of a child. The fact that Sam’s childhood was spent with his parents living separately meant that there were things that he wished for that were not possible. The removal of possibilities through the disintegration of family has a long term effect on individuals and this effect include the lack of confidence in one’s abilities to achieve particular goals such as going to college and graduating. The breakdown of family did a destroy hope in Sam and the other young people.
In conclusion, the thought of college was difficult for someone who grew up in a place that did not produce people that went to college. The thought of college was impossible for someone growing up around drugs and guns. Success could be defined by how one was known in the street rather than their desire to go to college. The neighborhood that the three men describe was not conducive to college success. The fact that Sam and his friends had to deal with crime and poverty everyday meant that they were robbed of right to even dream about college. The projects are depicted as a place where dreams die and young people no matter how careful they are, can be forced to become part of the crime rings. Once one dabbles in crime, there is no hope for anything else.
Davis, Sampson., Jenkins, George and Hunt Rameck. The Pact: Three Young Men Make a
Promise and Fulfill a Dream. New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2003.