A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the induction ceremony for young men who will be the first students at Carter G. Woodson Academy, here a new program in Lexington, Kentucky which comes as a result of the collaborative efforts of the Black Males Working (BMW) Program at First Baptist Church Bracktown and the Fayette County Public Schools. With the explicit mission of helping young Black men to achieve at high levels, store the program has enrolled students in grades six through nine and promises to offer educational experiences designed to have them realize their full academic potential.
The induction ceremony was a special one. Each young man was individually recognized and called to the front of the standing room-only sanctuary of First Baptist Church Bracktown where his parent(s) or grandparent(s) presented him with his official academy blazer. Additionally, as a token of the expectation that each student would graduate from high school, each young man was presented with a symbolic high school diploma.
There are lots of things that I think are special about what this program, the church, and school district leaders are planning and doing with Carter G. Woodson Academy, and I expect to have conversations here about its approach and accomplishments for years to come. For the moment, however, I’ll touch on just one thing that I believe to be crucial; that is the importance of having and articulating high expectations for the achievement of young Black men. Unfortunately, too many young Black men have heard neither their teachers nor their parents articulate and hold them to the expectation that they will achieve academically at high levels. If we are to change the educational and life outcomes for young Black men in our homes, schools, and communities, this must change. Parents, family members, church family members, and community members must first begin to believe for themselves that young Black men can compete academically with anyone. Personally, I think having high expectations for a child ought to be a prerequisite for having any dealings with him/her. The sad truth of the matter, however, is that if that prerequisite were enforced, there would be lots of adults that would not be able to work with Black children anymore.
I applaud the leaders of the Woodson Academy for making the expectation of academic achievement clear from the outset, and making that expectation known not only to the young men and their families, but to the larger community as well.