- UPMC lone corporation to make diversity commitment. Initiative asks others to get on board - 2013-05-24
- Take a Father to School big success - 2013-05-22
- Racism reported at Braddock Hills fire department - 2013-05-22
- Courier mobile app available for iPhone, iPad and android devices - 2013-05-18
- CCAC president accepts new role in Ohio - 2013-05-17
Created on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 09:41 Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 09:41 Published on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 09:41 Written by Rebecca Nuttall - Courier Staff Writer Hits: 1481
YOUNG BLACK MALES SHOW THEIR SUPPORT FOR PITTSBURGH PROMISE (Photo by J.L. Martello)
by Rebecca Nuttall
Courier Staff Writer
While college graduates around the country struggle to pay back their student loans, graduates of the Pittsburgh Public School District have the opportunity to leave college debt free. This opportunity is called the Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship for eligible students of up to $40,000 to pursue higher education.
However, despite the allure of this scholarship, only 18 percent of total Promise recipients are Black males. For this demographic group, the Promise is nearly unattainable as nearly half of all Black males in the district drop out of school.
On Jan. 17 the district took the first step in trying to reverse these statistics when they brought together struggling African-American male students from high schools around the city.
“Here’s what I believe: that you are a remarkable group of young men, who are incredibly special, who have immense worth and unending potential,” said Pittsburgh Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril. “Here’s the thing, I’m not sure the rest of the world believes that and it’s up to us to show them.”
The “We Promise” seminar at the former Greenway Classical Academy building brought together approximately 150 students to be mentored by successful African-American males from the Pittsburgh community. Through a series of exercises and encouraging speeches the goal was to inspire the students and give them the tools they need to be Promise-ready.
“If you look around, there are successful African-American males, but also community members and teachers who care about you,” said Charles Small, the seminar’s facilitator who recruited the mentors. “This whole initiative is about coming together as a community so you realize you have a whole team behind you.”
In order to be eligible for the Pittsburgh Promise, students must earn a minimum of a 2.5 grade point average and maintain a minimum attendance record of 90 percent. Students must also be a resident of Pittsburgh and a student in the district continuously since at least the 9th grade.
“Life is a learning process. If you want to write the story of your life, always make good decisions,” said District 2 School Board Representative Thomas Sumpter. “Right now you have the opportunity to take advantage of a free education.”
Serving as the event’s keynote speaker was Pedro Noguera, an education consultant who has been working with the district on improving student achievement and reducing racial disparities.
“Education is the one thing that can never be taken away from you. It’s the best thing you can do to invest in yourself,” Noguera said. “If you’re willing to work hard, you can even top people who’ve been given everything their whole life.”
Noguera used the importance of education throughout history among slaves and in the civil rights struggle to inspire the students. He also shared how education elevated him out of the housing project in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he grew up.
“The fact that I grew up in the projects doesn’t define who I am today. I remember when I was growing up neither of my parents graduated from high school, so they couldn’t help me with my college applications,” Noguera said. “But they did give me one thing; they gave me a belief in myself.”
In line with the day’s theme, the students participated in a workshop about how to brand themselves. Through this workshop, they learned not to internalize and perpetuate society’s negative stereotypes regarding Black males.
“I’m happy to get this opportunity,” said Calen Nunley Thompson, a Brashear High School student. “Every Black man, we get stereotyped into thinking we’re all the same, but I need to take that and let it motivate me, because all I need to do is go to school and I’ll be able to reach my goals.”
Moving forward, the mentors said they would like to have continued interaction with the students. Others also suggested setting up a system to monitor the students’ progress toward being Promise-ready.
“There was so much more energy in these young men leaving than when they first came. So there are already some increments of change,” said Superintendent Linda Lane. “But this is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the New Pittsburgh Courier Digital Daily newsletter!