At the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) meeting this week, there were several awards presented to groups and individuals.
I want to highlight one of the programs doing great work in raising achievement of students and in closing achievement gaps. Black Males Working, a collaborative program of First Bracktown Inc. and the Fayette County school district, received the Samuel Robinson award. This program is an outreach of First Baptist Bracktown and began in 2005 to address the needs of African-American males at Leestown Middle School. Since that time, the program has grown to serve more than 140 students from 11 middle schools and five high schools.
Students in the program must attend a Saturday Academy, maintain a 2.5 grade point average and show improvement in grades and behavior. Also, students must limit TV and video game usage to one hour per night and read 60 minutes per day. Students must turn in all homework and classroom assignments promptly, participate in community service and attend school regularly. They also must be well-groomed daily and maintain good conduct in home, school and community. Parent involvement also is a key component of the program. At the KBE meeting, I met four of the young men involved in this program. They all wore ties and were well groomed. The most impressive features of the young men were their handshakes and their ability to speak clearly and confidently to adults.
This program was developed by retired educator Roszalyn Akins and supported by Roger Cleveland, Ed.D., an assistant professor of educational leadership at Eastern Kentucky University. Rev. C.B. Akins and the members of First Baptist Bracktown play a critical role in supporting the program. Fayette County Superintendent Stu Silberman and the staff of the Fayette County school district have worked collaboratively with the program to provide support and encouragement.
The results of the program have been outstanding. Grades, behavior, test scores and college readiness statistics show the impact of the program. Students have received numerous college scholarship offers from Georgetown College, Morehead State University, Murray State University and Centre College. Recently, the University of Kentucky awarded 20 scholarships to the program.
Kentucky has made progress in improving graduation rates. However, we have much work to do. President Obama and Secretary Duncan have recently announced Innovation grant funds of $650 million available to school districts and non-profit organizations. I encourage local school systems to partner with non-profits similar to the partnership between Fayette County and First Bracktown Inc. and apply for these funds. When we have collaborative efforts such as these, not only do we improve the lives of students, but we also improve our community and state.
For more information on the Black Males Working Program, contact Roszalyn Akins at (859) 231-7042.