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Seven years ago, Reggie Benson was so full of rage his mother could not control him.Today, things are much different. On a recent Sunday morning, the ninth-grader was in church. His single mom was asleep in an apartment across the street, but Reggie took his spot beside the other boys. And if you stop by this small Pasadena church on a Sunday evening, Saturday afternoon, or a weekday at 6 A.M., you'll find Reggie there—eager to learn.

His grades have jumped from C's to A's, and he is a leader among the younger kids.

One of his mentors, Rudy Carrasco, believes Reggie was transformed because local believers invested in every aspect of his life over a long period.

"Church is seven days a week," says Carrasco, associate director at Harambee Christian Family Center, a community outreach for children in Pasadena. Reggie's mother had sent him to Harambee after school and on weekends in search of some way to tame his temper. The center is also where Reggie's church meets.

Reggie (whose name, like that of all other youths in this story, is fictitious) comes from a community in which racism, poverty, and drug abuse deplete the neighborhood's natural resources. The church can be the path for kids like him to find a future, both spiritually and academically.

In a recent study, researchers Mark Regnerus and Glen Elder Jr. demonstrate that when youth from low-income neighborhoods attend church, their academic performance improves.

The study, commissioned by the Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society, relied on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine the relationship between religion and academics in nearly 10,000 students. Regnerus and Elder found that the poorer the neighborhood, the more ...

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In the Magazine

May 21, 2002

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