Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

How Can High Schools Be Improved For Young Black Men?

A group of students and educators developed six plans for Milwaukee schools.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Aug 11th, 2021 12:50 pm
Bre’Andre Walker (from left), Aniyah McDonald, Angela Harris and Alondra Garcia participated in the “Design Your Future” fellowship. Walker and McDonald were fellows this summer, while Harris and Garcia are MPS teachers who helped them with their proposals. (Photo by Sue Vliet/MNNS)

Bre’Andre Walker (from left), Aniyah McDonald, Angela Harris and Alondra Garcia participated in the “Design Your Future” fellowship. Walker and McDonald were fellows this summer, while Harris and Garcia are MPS teachers who helped them with their proposals. (Photo by Sue Vliet/MNNS)

How would you improve outcomes for Black male high schoolers in Milwaukee? 

Through “Design Your Future,” a fellowship organized by Milwaukee Succeeds, about 60 young people developed six project proposals aimed at doing just that.

The fellows, ranging in age from 13 to 20 years old, met every weekday for six weeks in June and July to flesh out their ideas. Some, but not all, of the participants were Black males.

Most of the proposals focused on using school or recreational settings to improve the mental health of Black males. Clintel Hasan, strategic initiatives manager at Milwaukee Succeeds, a partnership of educational leaders across government, nonprofit and private sectors that launched the program in December, said this did not surprise her.

“Generally the ratio of mental health professionals to students in our schools is not appropriate,” Hasan said. “So social workers end up working on crisis cases only but not everyday issues.”

The goal is to implement the proposals by January.

Logan Funches, who will be attending Washington High School in the fall, said she applied for the fellowship to learn more about how to take control of her own school experience.

“I sometimes feel intimidated around a lot of grown people,” Funches said. “But our world is falling apart. This was the first step for me making a change.”

In the coming days you can find full project proposals and fellowship updates here.

The proposals

The fellows were organized into six groups, and winners will receive two different payments: a $10,000 grant to spend on making the idea a reality, as well as a $2,500 stipend for each individual youth who worked on the proposal. 

Cohort 1: Jabali (Strong as a Rock)

Group members: Rasean Bly, Julian Cottrell, Paige Kelly-Smith, Zion Owusu-Yeboa, Kaylee Marsh, Aalijah Herron, Kaysha Gail, Eh Moo Kee, Zara Easter

Jabali, meaning “strong as a rock” in Swahili, focused its proposal on the importance of mentorship programs. The group’s goal is to establish after-school mentorship programs that include a mental health curriculum, life skills curriculum and more Black and brown mentors who students can build positive relationships with. 

Jabali identified Milwaukee Succeeds, Mentor Greater Milwaukee, and COA Youth & Family Centers as organizations that could bring this idea to life. 

Cohort 2: Voices of MKE

Group members: Amir Williams, Breanna Taylor, Quision Harrell, Delonta Henderson, Fernando Vargas, Jaden Alston, Jace Boswell, Logan Funches, Zion-Elon Green

Voices of MKE proposed safe spaces for Black males at schools with Black facilitators to work through issues related to mental health. This would involve creating and implementing a mental health curriculum centering on Black males.

Voices of MKE identified the MPS Board of School Directors, MPS offices, including the Office of Black and Latino Male Achievement, Milwaukee Succeeds, ArtWorks for Milwaukee and the America’s Black Holocaust Museum. 

Cohort 3: Next Generation of Hope

Group members: Cree Ellzey, Jana’ja Gipson, Jamarion Mister, Melissa Harris, Taye Hardy, Jovan Jiron Jr., Aliyah Ayinla, MaHailey Stephens

Next Generation of Hope proposed a student-led administration that would have the power to evaluate teachers and initiate ideas on behalf of the student body. The fellows said this would differ from student government because this body would have more power to unilaterally act without oversight from adults, pointing to the ability to evaluate teachers as an example of this. Members of this body would be over 80% Black, elected by the student body and would receive stipends.

Next Generation of Hope identified MPS’ Office of Black and Latino Male Achievement, Diverse & Resilient, the Jrue & Lauren Holiday Social Impact Fund, Ubuntu Research and Evaluation and Milwaukee Succeeds as stakeholder organizations. 

Cohort 4: Stellar Scholars

Group members: Jayden Jenkins, Cameron Johnson, Bre’Andre Walker, Aniyah McDonald, Kamille McCray, Karis Haynes-Thomas, Makynzie Russ, Victor Ejiwale, Deh Nee, Saniiya Smith

Stellar Scholars proposed creating a culturally conscious mental health curriculum, assessment opportunities and programming targeting Black male youth. The fellows identified SKY SchoolsPEAK Initiative and Peace Learning Center of Milwaukee as potential partners for developing such a curriculum.

Cohort 5: La Familia del Futuro (The Family of the Future)

Group members: Jalen Gordon, Jayde Gathings, Jy’Nai Geter, Ayanna S. Lacking, Layla Johnson, Leticia Rivera, Marvion Spain-Currin, Tailus Rush, Temitope Osisanlu, Trinity Thompson, Zari Ellzey

La Familia del Futuro, meaning “the family of the future” in Spanish, proposed creating peer-to-peer support group networks that advocate for the mental health and emotional wellness of Black boys. The goal of this network would be to “create a sustainable support group model that can be duplicated at other high schools.”

La Familia del Futuro identified Milwaukee Succeeds, United Way’s Community Schools network, MPS school board, MPS entities such as Project AWARE and the Office of Black and Latino Male Achievement, Diverse & Resilient, PATCHBlack Health Coalition of Wisconsin and Heal the Hood. 

Cohort 6: Goal Diggers

Group members: Kamauri McCray, Tyler Williams, William Ferguson Jr., Journey Harper, Cierra Coleman-Elzie, Langston Robinson, Kourtney Graves, Kamari White, Kalea Calhoun

Goal Diggers proposed establishing recreation centers where mental, physical and spiritual health of Black males are seen as intertwined, not separate issues. The fellows identified Peace of Mind, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Marquette High School, Pulaski High School and North Division High School as potential partners, among others.

Here’s how young people feel we can improve the lives of Black male students was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. 


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