At-risk youth

= Audio Available Online

Demetrius McDowell discusses growing up in Smoketown, early expulsion from Jefferson County Public Schools, the effects of incarceration on the spirit and psyche, being a father in jail, starting a business, early attempts at youth diversion and violence interruption, working at the YMCA, starting the nonprofit youth advocacy group Bosses Not Bangers.

These and other interviews were conducted by the Louisville Story Program and collaboratively edited with the participants authors between 2020 and 2023. The culmination of this collaborative work is the documentary book, “If You Write Me A Letter, Send It Here: Voices of Russell in a Time of Change.” This anthology of nonfiction documents the rich layers of history and cultural heritage in the Russell area of west Louisville, a neighborhood whose history is centrally important to the Black experience in Louisville.


Mrs. Parker retired in May 1991 after twenty-seven years in public education. She was hired to teach in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1964, following college. She taught high school English and psychology for one year. She then moved to Jefferson County, where she taught junior high math for two years. Over the next twenty-four years she became a school counselor, and served at Stuart, Moore, Frost, Knight, and Highland schools. She talks about the changes she saw over her career. She speaks at length about the problems the schools had during the years following court-ordered busing and the merger of the city and county schools. She didn't feel prepared for the chaos and hostility and she spent much of her time resolving conflicts with students, teachers and parents. She also describes the change from junior high schools to middle schools, which gave the 6-8 grades an identity separate from the high schools, and promoted unity in the staff. She speaks of greater teacher involvement with all students, healthier holistic approaches, and identification of home problems in the new middle schools. In the last ten years of her career, Parker notes social phenomena and issues including "latchkey" children, single parent homes, dysfunctional families, and sex and drug abuse, which the schools were identifying. She saw her job change from administrator to facilitator between student, parent, teacher, and communtiy resource, a change she welcomed. Her greatest sense of accomplishment was working with "at risk" students.