Boston Promise Coalition | City of Ideas
Issue to be Addressed:
Both the Black Ministerial Alliance (BMA) and our partner Boston Higher Education Resource Center (HERC) have been providing academically focused services for boys/adolescent males since 1999, to address the disproportionately high academic failure rates experienced by “black and brown” students in the Boston Public School System. The four-year high school graduation rate was 55% for African Americans and 51% for Latino males in 2011, and is connected to the 15.1% dropout rate. African American males at 17.1% and Latino teens at 18.5% bear the brunt of this burden. Students dropping out will go on to earn sub-standard wages in a Boston economy where a Bachelor’s degree has become the baseline requirement to earn a living-wage. The tragic trend emerging is only 13% of Latinos and 17% of African Americans in Boston are likely to enroll in college and on average only 26% graduate within seven years of completing high school. Persistent racial disparities in combination with local demographic trends present huge hurdles, resulting in unemployment rates of 41.6% for Black youth ages 16 to 24, and 17.6% of “documented” Latino young men; who need help to overcome these barriers to achieve success. (Bureau of Labor Statistics July 2012)
The Boston Promise Coalition will target an ethnically diverse population of 60 to 75 middle school males currently attending the Higginson/Lewis K-8 School in Roxbury. Funding requested will enable the Promise Coalition to use case management services to weave together two successful faith-based programs and school services, into a seamless, comprehensive and coordinated approach to assisting “black and brown” boys to obtain the fundamental academic, mentoring and social development services required to complete high school, college or career training, successfully. All youth selected by the school will be linked to a mentor provided through Boston HERC’s City Passage program, and will receive case management services to individualize referrals for the academic services that meet students specific needs. Academic and social development services will be provided by the most appropriate BMA Victory Generation site, located in the community surrounding the school. The school’s counselor will receive support from a Boston HERC’s case manager to ensure that services are culturally competent and clearly understood by parents/. Parent engagement services will be managed by the BMA with support from Boston HERC and school personnel. During the summer, youth will participate in community service projects, academic studies, recreational, Baseball and Tennis camp.
Role of Collaboration:
To change the current paradigm in systemic ways for boys/teens at the Higginson/Lewis School requires that we work together. The school will select youth whom they think can benefit most and will provide case management services linking youth to academic support services provided by three or more BMA Victory Generation program sites. The school will also integrate parent engagement activities, initiated through this project, into ongoing school operations. Boston HERC will work with churches identified by the BMA and Federation of Hispanic Pastors and other groups to train and link mentors to youth and will provide supplementary case management services.
Our theory of change is to reduce the silo effect and isolation of the public school system by re-engaging the faith community, parents and residents as an integral part of our young men’s passage to manhood. While the BMA and Boston HERC are existing partners at the Higginson/Lewis School, we seek support as it is imperative that we coordinate how we work together in this school, where 56.7% of the 353 students are Black and 38.8% are Latino. To make lasting changes, the school’s administrators welcome our support to: a) engage parents, as only 11% of the 420 parents responded to BPS participation surveys, b) link young men to positive role models/mentors, as more than 50% come from single parent families, and c) provide the critical academic and social supports students need to succeed in school, as test results for 2011 show that 38% of Grade 6 and 44% of Grade 7 students failed the MCAS and an equally high percentage “need improvement.” To coordinate and execute these varied services well, the Boston Promise Coalition needs funding to weave together the fabric of services needed to improve the lives and futures of our black and brown boys and teens.
The Boston Promise Coalition provides an ideal opportunity to combine and expand the network of collaborating faith-and community-based organizations providing services, with documented outcomes, that can help to change the lives of teen males attending the Higginson/Lewis school. The Promise Coalition enables us to expand and improve existing services provided through: a) City Passage’s basic mentor training, b) Victory Generation Out-of-School Time academic services and c) the Higginson/Lewis’s school improvement plans. The Collaborate Boston prize funding is the glue that brings these services together in new ways to benefit our community’s boys and teen men. Once launched, we envision continuing discussions with Bottom Line, to determine how best they can modify existing services to influence our participants thinking about entering college. We will also begin making plans to replicate the Boston Promise Coalition model at the other public schools, like the Jeremiah E. Burke High School, where we have been invited to participate, but lack the funding to do so, collaboratively.
Rev. David Wright, Executive Director of the BLACK MINISTERIAL ALLIANCE OF GREATER BOSTON (BMA). Since the inception of the Black Ministerial Alliance (BMA) in the 1960s, the organization has mobilized the faith community in Boston to play an active and transformative role in shaping the city’s non-discriminatory policies and, in partnering with community-and faith-based organizations to make lasting changes in the lives of youth and their families. Today the primary focus of the BMA’s work is to collectively advocate for and improve programs and services that lead to better lives for our young people and more vital communities. The Boston Promise Coalition provides an unprecedented opportunity for us to expand the network of organizations that have been working separately on positive solutions that address the unequal opportunities that boys and young men of African American/Black, Latino, Cape Verdean and other ethnic heritages face in all facets of their lives—especially in the education, employment and the disproportionately high rates of involvement in the criminal justice, social service and foster care systems. Through this collaborative, the BMA will coordinate/integrate Higginson/Lewis’ school improvement services with the successful Boston HERC’s City Passage mentoring services and Victory Generation’s academic programs. Victory Generation services include: a) Stay in School-Academic support, tutoring, MCAS and SAT coaching; b) access to fitness, music and cultural youth development services; c) an academically focused community-service summer component; and d) Parent engagement services designed to increase parental participation in their children’s/youth’s development.
Rev. Samuel Acevedo is the Executive Director, BOSTON HIGHER EDUCATION RESOURCE CENTER. In 1999, the Boston Higher Education Resource Center (Boston HERC) was launched to meld the faith-community’s outreach to youth to improve access to higher education for disadvantaged Black and Latino youth. The organization’s goals: a) To improve academic performance of middle school and high school students through academic support and motivational activities; b) To prepare students for college; and c) To replicate and expand partnerships with churches to increase academic achievement and improve college access completion for underserved inner-city youth, are as cogent today, as they were 13 years ago. In October 2009, the Boston HERC City Passage Mentoring Program was launched to train faith-and community-based organizations, churches, universities and grass-roots groups to mentor youth, particularly young males, to provide the long-term support our youth need to overcome significant hurdles to completing high school and entering college. Today, more than 400 at-risk and high-risk youth have been matched with mentors who represent the diverse ethnic backgrounds of the youth being mentored. Through the Boston Promise Coalition, City Passage will help to connect each youth enrolled to mentors through Boston HERC’s City Passage Mentoring Program by expanding the network of mentoring partners to BMA member churches and nonprofits to provide access to corporate, faith and community leaders willing to invest three-years in mentoring our city’s youth. This includes providing case management services for English Language Learner parents, to improve communications with school personnel and to assist with the placement of youth in appropriate academic settings.
Joy Salesman-Oliver is the Principal of the HIGGINSON/LEWIS K-8 SCHOOL. When the Higginson and the Lewis Schools were combined to create the current K-8 School, both schools were “underperforming” and the principal hired to turn the new school around faced significant challenges. Challenges created by scarce funding and the school’s location in a neighborhood viewed as ‘dangerous.’ Other challenges include the number of psychological/emotional, economic, familial, dental, eye-care and other ‘needs’ students arrived in school with, which hindered their ability to learn. Today, the Higginson/Lewis is on the path to leaving the Circle of Promise Schools and has taken major steps to improve the educational outcomes of the 353 students enrolled. The school has become a student-centered place of learning, and students and families are being linked to a variety of community-based organizations, health care facilities and colleges that provide the supplementary and supportive services needed to enhance the school’s learning environment. It is from this “open-door” perspective that the school’s administrators welcome the Boston Promise Coalition members. School personnel will: a) select boys/teen students they believe will benefit most from this program; b) provide the case management services, referrals and any specialized curricula to BMA Victory Generation program sites to which students have been referred for supplementary educational services; c) provide support for and attend all parent engagement meetings and activities; and d) work with the bi-lingual case manager at Boston HERC to increase parental understanding of the program and their unique role in supporting their children’s/teen’s educational and developmental accomplishments.