How can organizations best use out-of-school time to help black male students succeed? A new report from the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. attempts to answer that question by looking into effective practices at 16 programs that serve young black males in Washington
The report finds that workforce-readiness training, healthy lifestyles, safety and structure, and strong families contribute to academic success among young black males, and offers recommendations for how programs and policymakers can strengthen those aspects of young black males’ lives.
As the report notes, black males in the District are confronted with a host of challenges. Thirty-nine percent of black children in Washington live in poverty. While 39 percent of public school students in the city are black males, they account for 60 percent of students diagnosed with a disability and 54 percent of all student suspensions. Only 38 percent of black male students in the nation’s capital graduate from high school.
The report highlights promising practices currently used by local youth organizations. For example, officials with programs that promote work readiness said developing communication skills, providing high-quality work experiences and exposure to careers, and building a positive sense of self and self-esteem helped students succeed in jobs. A negative environment and previous bad choices depresses young black males’ sense of self-worth and their expectations for what they can achieve in a job, Joe Youcha, director of the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, which teaches workforce readiness through boat-building, told researchers.
“As they go through the program, they learn to trust us,” he said. “If we trust them, and they trust us, they eventually learn to trust themselves. Once they learn to trust themselves, our essential work is done because at that point we have changed their expectations of themselves and what they think they can achieve.”
The report’s authors offer a slew of recommendations for improving programs, including the following for policymakers and funders:
- Expand employment opportunities, especially paid positions, for high school students in OST programs and in schools.
- Provide high school and college credits for participation in OST internships and apprenticeships.
- Allow OST programs to be eligible for science, technology, engineering, and math funding that is currently only available to school systems.
- Fund student stipends for internships and apprenticeships during the academic year and/or summer.
Safety and Structure
- Extend programs focused on healthy masculinity to boys in juvenile justice and foster care and make those programs alternatives to suspension and expulsion.
- Fund debate programs to provide a safe space for articulating feelings and emotions while promoting effective communication.
- Invest in more playing fields and gyms for sports programs.
- Require that coaches are trained in principles of youth development and positive coaching.
- Help mediate parents’ relationship with schools so they can better advocate for their child in school.
Read the full report here.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.