Spring 2001, Volume 37, No. 2

Contents

FEATURE
Lives of a Saint

SPECIAL SECTION
Altruism 101
Reach Out!
Venture Catalysts
Sagehens in Paradise

DEPARTMENTS
-Pomona Forum-
Altruism 101
-News Print-
Professor's Philosophy of Life Unshaken

-Pomona Today-
Professor of the Year
Inside the Power Crunch
Rite of Passage
Top Five
Frats with a Difference
Bridge Over the Pacific

-New Knowledge-
The Secrets of the Hydra
-Sports Report-
Dynamic Duos
-Bookshelf-
Getting On
Threshholding
George Moore
-Campaign Update-
American Dreams

ALUMNI VOICES
-Parlor Talk-
Traditions
-Family Tree-
Allen-Lee-Kingman-McDonald
-Alumni Profile-
Casey Trupin '95

-Alumni Puzzler-
Inside-Out
-Back Cover-
Pilgrims' Progress



 


On any given night there are as many as 2,000 homeless youths in King County, Washington. The good news is, this morning in Seattle there are at least 20 volunteers ready to educate them on their legal rights. Led by Casey Trupin '95, Street Youth Legal Advocates of Washington, or SYLAW, offers free legal services to homeless or at-risk youth who have civil legal needs.
   "We do everything from youth rights to dealing with police to substantive criminal law," explains Trupin. Studies show that homeless youths have many more run-ins with police, and according to Trupin, both merchants and cities see these young people as a threat. "Homeless youths tend to be harassed more. Educating them to deal with police and assert their rights is extremely important."
   Founded in 1996 by Trupin and other students from the University of Washington, SYLAW is partnered with Columbia Legal Services and funded by AT&T through the Equal Justice Fellowship Program of the National Association for Public Interest Law.
   After graduating from Pomona, Trupin traveled to Latin America on a Watson Fellowship to study how other nations dealt with the issue of youth homelessness. "When you go abroad you realize that people in other countries grow up, fall in love and die just like we do," says Trupin. On that first experience with homeless youths, he was surprised to find that many of the children he worked with simply had no homes. Some had been born into families that were already too big. He met children with names like Sexto, literally translated "the sixth child." "That was when I got interested with working with issues of youth and homelessness, and I was sure that if solutions were to be discovered, they'd be found in the U.S." But what he found when he came home discouraged him.
   A lot of communities think homeless youths have made a conscious choice. "It's a constant PR battle for us to explain that kids are on the streets for many different reasons--parents with lack of skills, mental health issues, drug problems," says Trupin. "Sometimes it's that kids have mental health issues that aren't being served. We tend to victimize the homeless. We think that it's their fault. That's just not fact." To combat this victimization, SYLAW volunteers visit shelters and clinics. They educate youths on myriad issues: how to navigate juvenile court, how to get protection orders to ward off domestic violence, how to deal with housing issues and tenants' rights, how to obtain welfare or health care. The list goes on to include such practical information as Seattle's loitering ordinances.
   "The most important thing everyone can do is educate themselves on why the youth of this country is in trouble," he says. Part of that is working with this population. "No matter what you do--athlete, college student, teacher, or doctor--you have a skill that is not lost on them. Never assume the best way you can help is to give money--it's important, but it's rewarding to help the kids. You can make such an impact on them." --Sarah Dolinar