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USA, Tumbling out of the Chicago Ghetto

For youngsters living in the Chicago ghetto, one hope of access to education is being accepted in the elite tumbler gymnastics program of coach Jesse White. But the standards are high. And President Obamas home town remains a socially and ethnically divided city.

To become a member of the Tumbler Team is an arduous process: selection of potential candidates from the tougher parts of the city, where the average school grades and income are low and the unemployment and crime rate are high. Almost all candidates are black. Only a handful make it to the training phase. Only the best make it to the performance team. Only the very best meet the exacting standards of the coach Jesse White.

Jesse White selects all the candidates himself (to date thirteen thousand have passed through his hands). Once selected, they have to meet and maintain high standards in a wide range of fields, not just as athletes. School grades a C average - are essential, and drop-outs are excluded ( but tumblers are given a chance to improve their grades by attending special support classes). Discipline is strict. I give people three chances, says Jesse White. First, I correct. Then I warn. Then a final warning. After that, its out. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of this family-style framework, many of the tumblers see Jesse White as a sort of father figure, especially those from families headed by single mothers.

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