COMMENTARY: What More Can Be Done Under ESSA to Support Highly Qualified Teachers

COMMENTARY: What More Can Be Done Under ESSA to Support Highly Qualified Teachers

By Akil Wilson

As of Monday January 14th, the country’s 2nd largest public school system was being paralyzed by a teachers strike. The Los Angeles Sentinel reported that the walkout was followed by a plunge in student attendance, with about 144,000 students out of more than 600,000 students. On Tuesday that number grew to 159,000 students without instruction. This work stoppage was the latest in what has become a wave of similar protests in our nation’s public school systems.

Teacher concerns transformed into organized protests when, in early 2018, the West Virginia teacher’s strike made headlines, lasting over 2 weeks. Local education activists and teacher advocates forced the state legislature to address many of their concerns through the statewide strike. Afterwards, teachers returned to their classrooms with a 5 percent pay raise.

The strike lead to similar actions in several other school districts across the country including Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Teacher grievances in Los Angeles echo the concerns of teachers in many school districts nationwide. Among their demands are smaller class sizes, an increase in support staff and higher pay.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is overwhelmingly comprised of low-income students, with over 80% of its students qualifying for free or reduced lunch.

Within this immense school system of 900 schools and roughly 30,000 teachers, classroom sizes can often exceed 32 students per teacher at the elementary level and up to 39 students per teacher for middle and high school. This student-to-teacher ratio greatly exceeds the 16 to 28 students per teacher national averages in urban school districts, according to the National Teacher and Principal Survey of 2015-16.

One of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) primary mandates involves building systems of support for educators through the use of additional funding and initiatives provided in Title II.

Title II funds purpose to support class size reduction, encourage performance-based pay for effective educators and develop opportunities to improve overall school conditions. In addition to funding, ESSA will enable school systems to attempt to address the shortage in classroom instructors by shifting the emphasis for teacher evaluations away from student standardized test performance — a point of stress for many educators.

Thus far, the Los Angeles Unified School District has offered a 6% pay increase as well as a classroom cap size of 35 for elementary schools and 39 for high school English and Math courses. However, in a school district as massive as Los Angeles, support staff is also vital.

Teachers in Los Angeles are also demanding that something is done to address the current state of affairs, which allows a workload of over 500 students per guidance counselor and over 2,000 students per nurse in the county. The school district has promised to address these concerns by offering one additional academic counselor per high school in the district and ensuring that each elementary school has daily nursing services.

If you are in Los Angeles or a similarly affected school district, learn more about ESSA’s impact on Title II and find out how your State Education Agency (SEA) and Local Education Agency (LEA) can support the extremely important work our educators are doing to advance our students’ success.

Akil Wilson is a Washington, DC-based podcaster and parent. He is a contributing writer for the Washington Informer in addition to providing broadcast commentary for a variety of media outlets.

COMMENTARY: A Dream Deferred — Is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Just Another Elusive Dream?

COMMENTARY: A Dream Deferred — Is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Just Another Elusive Dream?

By Dr. Elizabeth V. Primas, Program Manager, NNPA ESSA Awareness Campaign

In 1951, Langston Hughes laid bare the anxious aspirations of millions of Black people in America with his poem, “A Dream Deferred.” In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded America of the promissory note written to its citizens guaranteeing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson attempted to make good on that promise by signing the Civil Rights Act into law. And in 1965, President Johnson sought to ensure equitable access to these unalienable rights by signing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) into law.

As a part of Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” ESEA was supposed to assist students of color in receiving a quality education, thereby helping lift them from poverty.

To date, ESEA remains one of the most impactful education laws ever ratified. ESEA established education funding formulas, guided academic standards, and outlined state accountability.

Since Johnson, presidents have re-authorized and/or launched new initiatives safeguarding the intentions of ESEA. Some of the most notable re-authorizations have been “No Child Left Behind” (2001, George W. Bush) and “Race to the Top” (2009, Barack Obama). The most recent re-authorization, the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) was signed into law by President Obama in 2015.

In previous re-authorizations of ESEA, emphasis was placed on students’ ability to pass rigorous standards in order to proceed from one grade to the next. However, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that a measurable achievement gap has persisted.

As education leaders review the individual state plans that have been developed and approved in keeping with the Every Student Succeeds Act, it is obvious that many states are making an attempt prioritize equity over performance. Some states have set timelines for their accountability measures, signifying the urgency of the problem, while other states continue to miss the mark by setting goals that are too distant, including the proposal of a twenty-year timetable to close the achievement gap.

I am concerned about ESSA State plans such as these, that pass the buck to future generations of educators and set the bar too low for vulnerable student populations.

In several states, schools that perform in the bottom 5% will receive funding to assist in closing the achievement gap. But, again, I wonder if we are setting the bar too low. I am not convinced that assisting schools in the bottom underperforming 5% will make a significant impact on closing the achievement gap in any city.

Still, I find hope in the new reporting guidelines outlined in ESSA. ESSA requires State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to develop school report cards so parents can compare which school is the best fit for their children.

District report cards must include the professional qualifications of educators, including the number and percentage of novice personnel, teachers with emergency credentials, and teachers teaching outside their area of expertise.

States must also report per-pupil spending for school districts and individual schools. Expenditures must be reported by funding source and must include actual personnel salaries, not district or state averages.

Parents must get engaged to hold legislators and educators accountable for their ESSA State Plans. Parents must also hold themselves accountable in prioritizing the education of our children. Research shows that just one year with a bad teacher can put a child three years behind. Now, think about what happens after years of neglect and lack of advocacy.

So, what happens to a dream deferred?

Parents hold tight to your dreams for your children’s futures. Be present in the school, be the squeaky wheel and don’t be afraid to demand the best for your children. Don’t stop at the classroom or schoolhouse door if you aren’t satisfied with the education your children are receiving. The race for educational advocacy is a run for your child’s quality of life.

Be the Parent Teacher Association’s (PTA) president. Be the neighborhood advisory commissioner. Be the next school board member. Be the next mayor of your city. Be on the City Council. Run for Congress. Be all that you want your children to be. Be the example.

Be Engaged.

For more information on how you can get engaged, go to

Elizabeth Primas is an educator who spent more than 40 years working to improve education for children. She is the program manager for the NNPA’s Every Student Succeeds Act Public Awareness Campaign. Follow her on Twitter @elizabethprimas.

COMMENTARY: Getting Real About High School Graduation For Black And Brown Students

COMMENTARY: Getting Real About High School Graduation For Black And Brown Students

By Nate Davis, CEO and Board of Directors Chairman, K12 Inc.

Our nation’s graduation rate is at an all-time high. The national figure shows 84 percent of young people, overall, graduating from high school within four years after first entering the 9th grade, a trend that has been on a consistent upswing since the 2010-2011 school year.

Still, despite much progress with that indicator, major gaps still exist. And there is great concern that the graduation rate hype not only masks those gaps, but distracts us from what must be our ultimate goal: ensuring all students earn a high school diploma and are college and career ready.

Even as overall graduation rates improve, Black and Hispanic students continue to lag behind that curve. Graduation rates for African American students are 76.4 percentage points—8 percentage points behind the national average—and Latino students are at 79.3 percent. Native American students fare even worse at just 72 percent graduation. Meanwhile, White and Asian students are anywhere from four to six points higher than the national average.

None of us can reasonably expect the closure of inequality gaps, if we’re simply satisfied with overall graduation rates while resigned to stubborn achievement gaps. Yet, it seems as if we’re in a phase whereby these disparities are being treated as normal—“the way it is”—as opposed to addressing a larger parity problem.

We have to ask ourselves: are we having a responsible and responsive conversation about high school graduation?

The most recent “Building a Grad Nation” report from America’s Promise Alliance says that, “Twenty-three states have Black-White graduation rate gaps larger than the national average, including five states—Wisconsin, Nevada, Minnesota, New York, and Ohio—where the gap is more than 20 percentage points…Twenty-four states have Hispanic/White graduation rate gaps that exceed the national average, and in two states – Minnesota and New York—the gap is more than 20 percentage points.”

The persistent normalcy of lower achievement among certain disadvantaged student populations is deeply troubling. Closing those gaps should be as important—if not more—than simply raising overall graduation rates.

At the same time, graduation rates can be used to unfairly malign schools that are serving underprivileged youth and, in fact, helping at-risk students earn a high school diploma. Alternative schools are singled out for having four-year cohort graduation rates that are generally lower than the national average, but left out of the conversation is how these schools are intentionally designed to serve credit-deficient transfer students and former dropouts at risk of never earning a diploma at all.

Measuring how well schools are graduating students is important, but it should be done right, and must not create disincentives for schools to serve credit-deficient students or dropouts looking for a second chance. After all, what is more important for these students: graduating or graduating “on-time”? It’s why graduation rate calculations should be reformed altogether so schools are held accountable for students’ annual progress toward graduation every year, not just in the fourth year of high school.

Sadly, the drive to meet on-time graduation has led to recent cases of manipulation and fraud, which, of course, is wrong, but it also misses the primary purposes of high school altogether: preparing students for higher education, careers, and the workforce. The linkage between these goals—graduation and college and career readiness—is crucial for broader national competitiveness. Graduating students is meaningless if they are not prepared.

The number of high school students heading into remedial courses in their first year of college are staggering, and the gaps between varying demographics are even more troubling. Nearly 60 percent of African American students are forced to enroll in non-credit remedial classes in college, according to the Center for American Progress, compared to 45 percent of Latino students and 35 percent of White students. This means that Black, first-year college students, already burdened the most by rising college costs and loan debt, are taking on a greater share of the $1.3 billion wasted on non-credit remedial courses.

There is no one silver bullet that will solve our nation’s graduation problem, but we can start by realigning graduation standards to the expectations of colleges, career training programs, industries and jobs, and developing competency-based, personalized learning paths for students unconstrained by four-year cohorts. And we must finally address funding gaps that exist for too many alternative schools working to eliminate achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

Addressing this complex challenge requires a mix of other solutions, too; improved learning models and instruction, greater support for our teachers, innovative technology, and increased services to disenfranchised students groups are just a few that we should be working on. But none of this can happen without educators, policymakers and business leaders willing to engage in honest and constructive conversations, and then pledging to act.

A rising graduation rate is worth celebrating, but let’s not become complacent.

Nate Davis is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors at K12 Inc., an online education provider for students in pre-K through 12th grade

Milwaukee Education Partnership Celebrates New Racine and Milwaukee Public School Superintendents

Milwaukee Education Partnership Celebrates New Racine and Milwaukee Public School Superintendents

By Karen Stokes

July 28, 2018

Dr. Eric Gallien, Superintendent of Racine Unified Schools. Gallien’s new position began July 1, 2018. (Photo by Karen Stokes)

[/media-credit] Dr. Eric Gallien, Superintendent of Racine Unified Schools. Gallien’s new position began July 1, 2018.

The Milwaukee Education Partnership (MEP) held a special reception to welcome the new Superintendents for Racine Unified School and Milwaukee Public School Districts.

Gerard Randall, Executive Director of the Milwaukee Education Partnership welcomed the two new superintendents and members of the MEP, Dr. Eric N. Gallien, Racine Unified School District, and Dr Keith P. Posley, Milwaukee Public Schools.

The reception was held at the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) that for years has been a creative environment that delivers curriculum and confidence using out-of-classroom spaces.
MPM President/CEO Dennis Kois, welcomed educators from neighboring Wisconsin school districts in attendance.

Dr Keith Posley, interim Superintendent to Milwaukee Public Schools appointed May 21, 2018 (Photo courtesy Milwaukee Public Schools)

[/media-credit] Dr Keith Posley, interim Superintendent to Milwaukee Public Schools appointed May 21, 2018

“The museum’s primary purpose of collecting, preserving, protecting, exhibiting, researching and formulating objects in our collection is to educate and that purpose is through school visits that we host,” said Kois. “This museum brings in 100,000 children. It’s the largest museum in the state and one of the oldest in the U.S.”

The Racine Unified School Board voted 8-1 to make Deputy Superintendent Dr. Eric N. Gallien the next superintendent of the Racine Unified School District. Gallien’s new leadership position began this month.

“It’s really humbling for me today, I grew up not even a mile from here. I would ask my mom if we could go to the museum and she would say, you know we don’t have money for that,” said Gallien. “Now I’m being celebrated in the same museum that I couldn’t afford to go to years ago.”

Gerard Randall Executive Director of Milwaukee Education Partnership (Photo by Karen Stokes)

[/media-credit] Gerard Randall Executive Director of Milwaukee Education Partnership

Gallien said his mother raised him, his brother and sister in a way that set high expectations for them and gave them enough rope to take risks.

“My leadership is strictly autobiographical. Unpacking the narrative of what can and cannot be done with children who come from humble beginnings. Some people call it poverty. Whatever you want to call it they have potential and when you see humanity in those children you can change the trajectory for all kids in this area,” said Gallien.

Dr. Keith P. Posley was appointed Interim Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools effective May 21, 2018, after Superintendent Darienne Driver departed MPS to become CEO of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Posley, a former teacher, principal and administrator has served for 29 years in a variety of positions for the Milwaukee Public School District.

Dennis Kois, President/CEO, Milwaukee Public Museum (Photo by Karen Stokes)

[/media-credit] Dennis Kois, President/CEO, Milwaukee Public Museum

“I’m not going anywhere, I’m here to stay,” said Posley. “As we commit ourselves to the success of every child, I will be focusing on Five Priorities for Success:

1)Student achievement and accountability
2) Develop the staff
3) Fiscal responsibility and transparency
4) Building district and school culture, working together as one unit
5) Clear, concise communication”

Posley thanked his wife, mother, staff, teachers, administrators, superintendents and representatives from universities. He also stressed the importance of working together.

“It’s truly going to take a village to make sure our children are going in the right direction,” said Posley. “We’re going to make it work, we’re going to make sure we are moving in the right direction and we’re going to show results. We’re going to make it happen in Milwaukee Public Schools,” Posley said.
Mark Sain, MPS, District 1 President who worked with both Gallien and Posley, recognized the educators from Franklin, Brown Deer, Racine, Milwaukee and West Bend school districts attended the event.

“When we talk about education, we talk about that village,” Sain said. “We have two brothers that are going to need the village to help them to propel what we need to be doing for the young people in our communities and it’s not just a Milwaukee thing, it’s not just a Racine thing but it’s what’s happening in Franklin, it’s what’s happening in West Bend. When it comes to education we really need to put our arms around our young people.”

Randall said since 1999, the MEP is an organization that brings together senior educators from around the city, business leaders as well as those who were involved in the nonprofit workforce development world that came together to bring young people to grade level academically, especially in reading, writing and science to get them into a 2 year or 4 year college and to ensure good teachers were in those classrooms with those students.

Two Birmingham students win pitch competition on deforestation

Two Birmingham students win pitch competition on deforestation

By: Ariel Worthy

Two Birmingham city high school student-athletes recently won $500 to plant trees around the metro area.

Jordan Embry of Ramsay High School and Kobe Howard of Wenonah High School won for their presentation on the importance of mitigating deforestation in Alabama which impressed a panel of judges at the Together Assisting People (TAP) Business Pitch Competition.

“I think it’s brilliant for them to come up with a concept talking about tree deforestation,” said Chris Rogers, founder and CEO of TAP. “They want to take the (prize) money (of $500) to do that. They want to get their teammates and TAP to plant more.”

The students want to start out by planting five trees in two Birmingham neighborhoods this summer but hope to plant more.

Embry, who is a junior and a running back at Ramsay, and Howard, who is a senior with the culinary program at Wenonah, provided statistical information about deforestation in their communities.

Embry said he came up with the idea of planting trees because he wanted to do something that makes a difference.  “I feel like trees are a necessity in life,” Embry said. “They help with oxygen and it has so many benefits for everyday life. When you cut down a tree I feel like you should also replant a tree.”

Howard said he was surprised by the number of trees cut in every year.

About 3.5 billion trees are cut every year around the world including about 500,000 acres of trees a year in the United States, he said. “We don’t cut down as much as Brazil, but they also have a rainforest,” Howard said. “So we don’t have as many trees . . . but we’re still losing a lot of the benefits that trees provide us.”

Howard said he learned a lot about research while working on the project.

“If you have the right people, the right materials, the right information, you can go far and do a lot,” he said.

Embry agreed.

“I think our idea was pretty good,” he said. “We learned about creating a budget plan for the project. For silver maple seeds (to plant the trees) it’s $20 for 100 seeds. We’re not going to plant over 300 seeds or anything, but we do hope it will make a difference.”

The students said they hope their project inspires others to take notice of issues like deforestation.

“If they want to help in another area and plant trees there, they should go for it,” Embry said.

Jordan Embry presents information about deforestation to a panel of judges during Together Assisting People’s first Business Pitch event. (Provided photo)

Rogers acknowledged that the topic wasn’t one that many athletes would care about.

“You’d never think that athletes would be into that kind of stuff,” he said. “Jordan is a kid who gets it. Kobe is looking to go to the University of South Alabama and major in business, but he has dreams of being a chef. He actually caters our events. So, we’re letting him fine-tune his skills by catering our events. He’s getting the opportunity to get real-life skills and we’re putting money in his pockets.”

Other pitches as part of the competition included ways to improve customer service. Students Lee Witherspoon of Parker High School and Jayst Dorion of Spain Park High School are trying to come up with an app to improve customer service, Rogers said.

“They said they see a difference between how you’re treated at Wal-Mart and Whole Foods,” he said.

This is the first Business Pitch, but Rogers wants it to become an annual event.

“We have some . . . guys doing exceptional work,” Rogers said. “To have them . . . researching and pitching. I think long term they all won. They’ve got something invaluable.”

DeVos Defends Civil Rights Record

DeVos Defends Civil Rights Record

Education Week logoHouse Democrats and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sparred over civil rights, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and teachers’ salaries at a hearing Tuesday, but lawmakers from both parties largely avoided controversial questions about school safety in the aftermath of a Texas high school shooting last week that left 10 students and staff dead.

Appearing before the House education committee, DeVos emphasized that the federal school safety commission she leads is working quickly, and that its ultimate goal is to ensure that schools “have the tools to be able to make the right decisions to protect their own buildings and their own communities.”

She said the commission was developing a timeline for its work, but also said that she planned to have the commission report its findings by year’s end. 

“We are looking forward to [hearing from] every interest group, every constituency, particularly teachers, parents, and law enforcement and school leadership,” DeVos told lawmakers, later adding that, “We seek to look at models across the country.”

The commission has only met once since it was created in March after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., although the secretary met last week with school safety researchers, as well as parents of children killed in school shootings. Its other members are Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. DeVos previously has said that schools should be able to decide if they want to provide staff with firearms to improve safety, but did not share detailed personal opinions on school safety in general with the committee…

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.

Source: Education Week Politics K-12. May require Education Week subscription.

Final Week for HBCU Students to Apply for NNPA DTU Journalism Fellowship

Final Week for HBCU Students to Apply for NNPA DTU Journalism Fellowship

The deadline for HBCU students to submit an application for the 2018 Discover The Unexpected Journalism Fellowship, or DTU, is April 30.

The DTU Journalism Fellowship includes:

  • 8-week multi-city journalism fellowship working with National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) newspapers in Atlanta, New York City, Washington D.C. and Norfolk.
  • $10,000 scholarship and a $5,000 stipend for living expenses provided by Chevrolet
    access to an all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox for a road trip of a lifetime!

This is the first year DTU is open to all HBCUs. DTU was launched at Howard University in 2016. Last year, the program expanded to include Clark Atlanta University,  Morehouse  College  and Spellman College.

The DTU Fellowship is looking for HBCU studentswho are multi-media savvy and have a passion for storytelling.

DTU Fellows will be assigned to write stories that spotlight positive and powerful people and events. The Fellows will be responsible for all aspects of storytelling: writing, videography, photography, research, on-camera reporting and social media posting.

The Fellows will be placed in two 3-person teams. Over the course of the internship, each team’s road trip will take them to two different cities where they will spend four-week intervals working alongside experienced staff at NNPA member newspapers.

The participating NNPA newspapers are: The Washington Informer, The Atlanta Voice, The New Journal & Guide in Norfolk, and The New York Amsterdam News.

Any student who is at least 18 years of age, attending an HBCU in their sophomore, junior or senior year and majoring in journalism or mass communication is encouraged to apply.

Students are required to submit:

  • Resume with GPA
  • Video submission
  • Technology/social media profile
  • Writing sample

The completed applications and video submissions will be screened and evaluated to select six DTU Fellows based on application scores.

Students can apply for DTU 2018 through April 30th on the program’s website,

Sonya Lewis
708.439.0326 (mobile)

Tim White Rehired to Lead Facilities Dept.  at Oakland Unified School District

Tim White Rehired to Lead Facilities Dept. at Oakland Unified School District

The Oakland Unified School District has rehired widely respected administrator Tim White as Deputy Chief of Facilities to oversee construction and renovation projects on numerous major facilities projects that are underway.

“I am excited to come back to the place where I spent 14 years, supporting young people with outstanding educational facilities,” said White.

White worked for OUSD from 2001 to 2015 as Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and later as Deputy Chief of Facilities before being forced out his position in 2015 during the administration of former Supt. Antwan Wilson.

After leaving Oakland, White served as Executive Director of Facilities for Berkeley schools, working closely with the superintendent, Construction Bond Oversight Committee, and school board to determine long-term planning for the expenditure of facility construction bonds approved by voters.

He was also responsible for the expenditure of the district’s school maintenance tax ($5 million annually) used to keep schools safe and well-maintained. White previously worked in the Compton Unified School District.

“Tim brings extensive experience, an accomplished track record and a deep commitment to Oakland and communities. We are excited about Tim’s leadership and the new team that will be assembled in our Business and Operations division,” said OUSD Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell.

“My previous time in OUSD will help me transition into this new role, enabling me to hit the ground running. There are many exciting projects well underway, including the rebuilding of Glenview Elementary and the new school building at Madison Park Academy, plus many in the early stages such as the new Central Kitchen,” said White. “I look forward to completing all of them as soon as possible, while ensuring that we are effective stewards of taxpayer dollars for the voters of Oakland.”

The post Tim White Rehired to Lead Facilities Dept. at Oakland Unified School District appeared first on Oakland Post.

New scholarship opportunity removes barrier for homeless students in Twin Cities

New scholarship opportunity removes barrier for homeless students in Twin Cities

Minnesota Spokesman Recorder logo

As the cost of college grows, research shows that so does the number of hungry and homeless students at colleges and universities across the country.

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless is offering 10, $2,000 scholarships for the 2018-2019 school year to Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) students who are currently homeless or have experienced homelessness in the past two years. Funds can be used for education or living expenses.

With demand for technical and skilled trade positions at an all-time high, and with MCTC’s nearly 100 percent job placement rates for students graduating from their career and technical education (CTE) programs, Open Your Heart is confident that the benefits of this scholarship are twofold.

In addition to filling high-demand jobs, students are offered a real and permanent escape from a homeless life.

Since 1986, Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless, a Minnesota non-profit, has supported hunger, homeless, and domestic violence programs throughout the state.

Entirely funded by the private sector, mostly individuals, Open Your Heart has also worked to ensure that homeless students have the same access to educational opportunities as all Minnesotans.

For more information please visit Scholarship applicants should apply online at by the June 1 deadline.

—Information provided by Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless


I.E. 100 Black Men Help Develop Youth

I.E. 100 Black Men Help Develop Youth

By Dianne Anderson

Keith Willis, incoming 100 BMIE president, said that he and the other volunteer mentors were taking late night calls from their boys, talking up and tweaking speeches until the last minute.

“They are very involved, very excited about the showcase. I’ve been on the phone, and they’ve been practicing,” he said.

The program, in partnership with the Pomona chapter Jack and Jill of America and the 100 BMIE Education Committee, helped the youth develop their presentations around some of the most significant civil rights heroes throughout Black history.

He said that “the 100” has been focused on outreach and broadening their students’ exposure to get out of the area to social events. They have been especially excited to collaborate with the Boy Scouts of America and in December, they took the boys to a leadership camp where they participated in a team-building exercise.

It was important to give students an opportunity that they wouldn’t ordinarily get in in the Inland Empire, he said.

The boys and youth also attended a young men’s conference sponsored by Jewett Walker, Div. President and Chairman of the Board of the 100 Black Men of Los Angeles.

“There were over 500 students there. It was an opportunity for our students to meet up with Los Angeles students and discuss issues that relate to growing up in America, in the climate that we have today. It was a very good exercise,” he said.

Wherever the 100 Black Men charters exist, part of the big picture is keeping students tight with local college campuses and formal higher education environments.

The organization provides strong academic support, but they especially want the boys grounded in a sense of self, with the cultural and social support they need for college success.

“It’s very important that students not feel like college is a foreign concept,” Willis said. “We want them to feel comfortable on campus, with various campus cultures so they can examine what is a good fit for them academically.”

Prior to coming on as president, Willis chaired the education committee, where his pet project was jump-starting the pilot program for the Saturday Academy at Cal Baptist University.

Their mentoring program at Chemawa Middle School, part of the Riverside Unified School District, is now in its second successful year. This week, in partnership with CBU, they are taking the middle school students out to the ball game for another fun day with higher education strategies hidden in the mix.

“It’s for a slice of college life,” he said. “We are also looking forward to building up a collaboration with University of California, Riverside, and the Black Student Union there to work on programs together.”

Willis said that he joined “the 100” because he was seeking a way to academically impact youth, which is part of the mission of the organization.  Initially, he served on the mentoring committee with Chemawa Middle School, eventually transitioning into the Saturday Academy.

“I came, and I was immediately enamored because it was exactly what I wanted to do,” said Willis, formerly a social studies teacher, and now an attorney. “We’re able to provide support, and a consistent presence of mentoring there.”

As students aged out of the middle school, the organization piloted a program with CBU, which encompasses some students from area high schools. All those attending wear their signature 100 Black Men of the Inland Empire shirt and khaki pants for their regular bi-monthly meetings. Currently, they have about 30 regular students aged 12 to 18.

In the coming weeks, the organization is also pushing community support for its April 20 Annual Gulf Tournament fundraiser to help keep the local programming strong for the kids.

Much of the energy in recent years has been in getting their bearings as a new organization, and developing programs that are a good fit for the local boys.  But the students who tend to be more involved also have strong parental support, he said. They make sure the boys come out to the meetings at the CBU campus.

As they’ve grown in the program, their boys and youth have developed persistence and staying power.  One student recently missed a class, and he was clearly upset about it.

“Once they go consistently, they want to keep going. It’s really been a positive experience,” he said.

For more information on the golf tournament or to get involved, email