Leadership Academy for Young Men
By Sharese Hardaway

9/2/11 - "Shocking School Achievement Gap for Black males" one headline reads, "A Bleak Picture for Young, Black Male Students" says another, "Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn." These are three of millions of results yielded from an internet search for African-American male education statistics. Most of the search results revealed a less than promising future for African-American males in America.

According to "The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education', the overall 2007-2008 graduation rate for African-American males in the United States was only 47 percent. In New York, graduation rates are below 50 percent with Rochester, Buffalo and New York City among the ten lowest performing large districts for African-American males.

Amidst all the controversy over the Rochester City School District lately, steps have been taken to combat these negative statistics, providing male students with a single gender setting school that will cater to the unique needs of young men today.

The Leadership Academy for Young Men, opening in September 2011, has a goal to not only address the specific learning styles of young men, but to also offer adult male role models from the Rochester community as mentors. Students will have the opportunity to develop leadership skills, serve their community and even experience campus life at local colleges while preparing them to graduate.

Wakili Moore, former principal of Charlotte High School, is credited with bringing the vision of the new high school to Rochester. Only 125 seats will be available in September. Moore has been recruiting boys in 8th grade who have yet to select a high school, to apply for the Leadership Academy. Students will be selected with a lottery process.

"The idea came from time in the district and doing research on the performance of our males in the district. Graduation rate is around 42 percent as a whole. The majority of that 42 percent is female," Moore said.

Although the school will not be exclusively for African-American males, being in the Rochester City School District, the students will be predominately African-American. Moore says the selection of texts and topics will be of interest to African-American males.

Some may argue the effectiveness of a single gender setting, but Moore believes this setting will benefit the students in more ways than one. Studies have proven that boys and girls have different learning styles and this school will have teachers who directly address this. Local college professors will also work with the teacher on the delivery of material to the students. Students will follow the same state mandated curriculum, however, the differences will be in the approach to how the material is presented and taught to students.

"There will be more hands on activities and more active type lessons. The students will be up and moving, learning through music and competition in lessons," Moore said. "From my personal experience, boys sometimes shy away from participation and answering questions from fear of embarrassment."

What sets the Leadership Academy for Young Men apart from other schools is perhaps the mentor program. Each student will be assigned a mentor from the community who will serve as a role model, assisting the student inside and outside the classroom. Moore, having mentored students at Charlotte High School, says he understands the importance of having a mentor.

"It's important for the students to have someone to look up to who has done it already and is successful-someone from the outside who will give a fresh look, as opposed to teachers. The mentors will make sure students are keeping up with their work while making sure that they know what is ahead of them and what has to be done to achieve their goals." Moore explained.

Moore has reached out to local businesses, colleges and fraternal organizations and individuals have already contacted him about becoming a mentor.

"Young men have to realize that they need a backup plan. There are other avenues besides sports and entertainment," he said.

Moore is in the process of partnering with Monroe Community College and the JROTC to offer a Service Learning program to the students. The students will learn character development and leadership skills, potentially earning college credits. He plans to teach the young men to care about their community while improving relationships between Charlotte residents and students. Extracurricular activities will be available for students with their input on what those activities will be. Students will also have separate athletic teams housed under Charlotte athletics.

A heavily debated issue across school districts nationwide is the dress code. A dress code is in development but with student, parent and staff input.

"A dress code sets the tone of a business like approach and gives them a different mindset while preparing them for job and college interviews. This will eliminate clothing competition and students will also feel apart of the team with a dress code," Moore stated. "The dress code will be accepted and supported if everyone has input rather than being told what the dress code is."

To test the effectiveness of the school, Moore says students will be assessed very frequently. Once he is able to come to an agreement with the teachers on the specifics, he plans to have an assessment every marking period-possibly halfway through the marking period.

"We don't know where our kids are and all of a sudden it's a surprise when the report cards come out. We have to know where we are so we know where to go from there." Moore said.

His goal for the school is to have a 100 percent graduation rate and for every student to be prepared to go to college or into the workforce.

"We're going to create an environment for young men to reach the goals that they want. We want them to graduate high school and be ready to enter a four year college. The environment is not set for them to succeed and I know all of them can."

Moore says he intends to create that environment with help from local businesses like Paychex, Rochester Razorsharks, Democrat and Chronicle, Clear Channel Radio, WDKX, University of Rochester, St. John Fisher and Nazareth.

He is asking for as much parental involvement as possible. Parents can provide teachers with information and help to develop school policies.

The Leadership Academy will be housed at the Charlotte Campus, having its own wing the first year. After the $27 million renovations are complete on the school, there will be two 500-student high schools in the building with two different principals.

For more information on the Leadership Academy for Young Men, contact Wakili Moore at (585) 262-8487.

Statistics

By 4th grade only 12% of black male students read at or above grade level while 38% of white males do. By 8th grade it falls to only 9%. (Council of the Great City Schools, November 2010)

Black male students are twice as likely as white males to drop out of school.

Black males make up only 6% of college enrollment nationally but 40% of the prison population. www.cgcs.org

According to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, Only 47% of black male students entering high school in 2003 graduated in 2008, white male graduation rate was 78% Visit www.blackboysreport.org for more information.