By Terra Pugh, Castlemont High School student

Monte’s older brother died in prison. Monte is a junior at Castlemont High School and his brother’s death was a very shocking moment.

“It was hard to handle,” he said. “It made me pursue what I wanted because it felt like I lost something in life and that I had to push my dream in order to get away from the negative and avoid the same position [prison].”

Over the past 5 years, the City of Oakland’s crime rates have increased. For example, in 2009, 6,920 burglaries took place. At the end of 2013, that number was at 9,313 and increasing. For teens, this reality is a reason to get the word out and act as a community against the issue.

According to the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth, in Oakland and in Alameda County, homicide is the leading cause of death for youth ages 1 to 24 (36.1%).

For Monte, his brother’s death made him feel like he should never give up and that he shouldn’t go down the same path.

According to Dr. Vinnie Blye, principal at Castlemont High School, teens end up committing crimes because they go down the wrong road and often do what they see others do. “Teens look up to elders and go after what they see that elder is doing. They may not see the opportunities for jobs and the opportunities to uplift themselves. This has a significant impact on the community and on the teens,” he said.

How can the Oakland community prevent a further increase in crime and preventable deaths? For many it comes down to initiative, control and respect.

For Elizabeth Coffin-Karlin, a Spanish teacher at Castlemont High School, it comes down to what she can do in her classroom. She lost her best friend and a student to murder.

“It [losing people I was close to] made me feel hopeless and frustrated at the things I couldn’t control. But it also made me more determined to control what I could control – for me, that is everything inside my classroom.”

After her student died, she became more conscious about focusing on what’s positive and on doing more one-on-one personal work with her students to improve their lives and keep them away from the negative.


In 2012 the amount of people who have been killed in the year 2012, there were 95 murders, 5 non-UCR murders, 5 aggravated assault, 169 victims raped, 3,180 robbery. In these categories, the ages of these people were around 15 – 24. All were based around our community, and what we as the people of this community should do is make it healthier and safe for everyone to live here.

Find links to the complete “Education Voices: Youth seek identity” series HERE.

(Ms. Pugh reported and wrote this story while participating in the Oakland Local Education Voices program in collaboration with Youth Uprising and Castlemont High School. The program was funded by the California Endowment. Find links to the complete series HERE or also on Castlemont’s CastleCrier newspaper. Ed Voices instructors Shaka Redmond of Youth Uprising and Irene Florez, Barbara Grady and Jon Leckie of Oakland Local congratulate Ms. Pugh.)

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