The school district in Oakland, California is trying to help young black boys to achieve everything that they are capable of. Sixteen different schools in the city have set up a program called African American Male Achievement. It was launched four years ago and the Oakland school district is the only one in the country that offers a program like this.
Every day during school there is one period where black male students file into classrooms that have black instructors. These instructors are teachers and mentors to the students. One student said that if they didn’t have money for the bus, the mentors would give them some money or if they needed a ride home, the mentors would do that too. They bring food into the classrooms for those who are hungry. The students can speak to the mentors and vent about problems that they are having at home or at school. During this school period they are able to vent and get advice. They also learn important things like how to tie a tie properly and how to stay out of trouble.
This class is an elective so if students do not want to be a part of it they do not have to be. When they take part in the class they get to pick how their time is spent. They get to choose which books they want to read such as the Malcom X biography. It is a safe place where they can learn, grow, and become men. The school district has seen a rise in graduation rates (up by 10%) in the four years since the program has been in effect. Their GPAs are 2.12 as compared to their peers who do not participate and average around 1.7. Most importantly the boys learn that the stereotypes that they hear are not true if they don’t want them to be and that they can be successful if they try hard enough.