MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new class offered at some Minneapolis public schools may raise eyebrows, but the district says it’s needed.
Last year, the school district created the Office of Black Male Student Achievement to improve the academic performance of African-American boys.READ MORE: Hopkins Police Investigating Homicide At Apartment Building
Now, four high schools and four middle schools in Minneapolis offer a class that focuses on the experiences and challenges of young black males.
I sat in on a class at South High School to see how it works.
Corey Yeager is a family therapist, who just became a licensed teacher so that he could lead these classes.
“We have fallen so far behind in so many categories that we need to focus, we need a light shining on African-American males,” he said. “And the opportunity that this office is giving is to shine that light in a different fashion, to give voice to these young men, to scoop away that hopelessness and in its place put some higher level of hope.”
In the class, students openly share their feelings and frustrations.
Myles Bilbro, a senior at South, said this was the first class he’s had with an African-American teacher.
“All my other teachers were white and mostly females,” Bilbro said. “I feel they don’t know what it’s like to be African-American, and they don’t know what we go through on an everyday basis.”READ MORE: Mass Casualty Simulation Helps Nat'l Guard, Children's Minnesota Practice Treating Kids
Payton Bowdry is also a senior at South High. I asked him about the challenges he’s faced as a student.
“Stereotypes,” he said. “I think that’s like number one, because personally you feel like you’re not as smart as the rest of the kids and that is not really true.”
Michael Walker is the executive director of the Office of Black Male Student Achievement.
“What I’m doing is awakening the greatness that they already have inside of them,” Walker said. “They already have it in them, we just need to pull it out and bring it out. As you just saw in our classroom, they have it. It’s just how do we give them that space to be authentic, to be able to speak their truth, and to make mistakes and be able to learn from those mistakes.”
The students are learning how to communicate better with their teachers and classmates.
“We didn’t get into this situation overnight and we are not going to get out of it overnight. It’s going to take some time to do that,” Walker said.
The school district hopes these classes will lead to better attendance and better grades.
They’re offered as an elective at four high schools (South, North, Edison and Harrison) and four middle schools (Field, Folwell, Franklin and Northeast).MORE NEWS: Amid Missionary Hostage Crisis, Minnesotan From Port-Au-Prince Wishes 'Haiti Would Get The Help They Need'
In addition to learning communication skills and getting relationship advice, the students study African-American history.