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.”

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