What Will Happen to Harold?

He lives in one of the worst sections of Philadelphia. His father is in prison. He’s washed out of two schools. He has ADHD. He’s been caught stealing. He gets into fights. Child advocates say this is a crucial time to turn his life around, before it’s too late. He’s 11 years old.

“Do you miss your father?” I asked.
“Ye-ah,” he said, his voice suddenly rising a couple of octaves as he looked away from me and down at the ground.  
“Did he ever talk to you about what he was doing?”
“He said,  ‘D-d-d-don’t do what I’m doin’,’” Harold stuttered.
“What did you think about that?”
Harold shrugged in response.  
“How do you feel?” I asked.
He shrugged again.
“Sad?” I asked.
He shook his head no.
By now, he was sniffling and rubbing at his nose with his hands. “Ye-es,” he said.
“Who are you angry with?” I asked. “The police?”
He shook his head no.
“Your father?”
Without looking up, he nodded ­vigorously — yes.
“Have you talked to him since he’s been in jail?”
Again he didn’t speak, just shook his head no.
“Has he written you a letter?”
“Have you written him?”
“Would you like to?”
Harold nodded yes again.
“Why haven’t you?”
He was silent for a few seconds. Then he shrugged: “I don’t know what to say.”

HIS FATHER GONE, again, Harold can only rely on his remaining assets — his intelligence, and his mother. Anike “Nicky” Hicks never graduated from high school, but she’s studying for a GED at Hope Partnership, which serves the community as more than just a middle school. Along the way, she’s worked a series of jobs, including at Whole Foods and a new job at Kmart. Hicks seems as anxious as any parent to see that her kids have it better than she did. She has sought to get the highest-quality education she can for all four of her children, enrolling them at the First Philadelphia Charter School, in the Northeast, where the principal speaks highly of her and her offspring. Nicky has adapted to a neighborhood she hasn’t been able to leave. And she has remained partnered to a man who has been arrested for minor crimes on a consistent basis over the years, a man who has accumulated eight aliases. While they call each other husband and wife, she and Harold Sr. aren’t married. “He always said he wanted to wait until he had the money to do it right,” she says.