S.B. School Fights Racist Hate

S.B. School Fights Racist Hate


African Americans and Latinos may have their share of differing opinions or political stances, but one area where both groups readily agree is that racist hatred will not be tolerated at their school.

A recent hate message to former principal Crecia Robinson, a three-time victim of racist messages at Lankershim Elementary School in San Bernardino, raised parental concerns from parents on both sides over the potential for discrimination in the classroom.

Last week, Superintendent Dale Marsden released comments that he would diligently pursue an investigation to bring the race hater to justice.

“Although the letter didn’t directly threaten physical harm to any staff or students, the contents of the letter were disturbing, unacceptable, and sufficiently threatened the climate and culture of Lankershim Elementary School,” said Marsden in a letter to parents posted on the school website.

Over three years ago, Robinson received her first piece of race hate in her mailbox in May 2015 with a message scrawled, “We do not want a black principal here,” and that the team should not have selected her.

A few months later, the San Bernardino Unified School District Affirmative Action Department launched its investigation over a second carefully constructed hate message of cut out and pasted letters, that were copied and posted in the staff room, saying “Thanks nigger for collaborating.”

The person that wrote the hate messages was never identified.

Ms. Robinson has since relocated to another department within the district.

San Bernardino school board member Danny Tillman said he recently visited the school, and attended community meetings where the environment appeared welcoming, and all seemed well.

The last investigation was conducted at the direction of the internal school police. This time around, he said the Board is giving direction and fully dedicating resources to catch the perpetrator.

No matter the cost, he said they are prepared to bring in the best investigators.

“Our [school] police department did an investigation last time, but they don’t do investigations day in and day out,” he said. “You’ve got some folks out there that specialize in investigations. We’ll bring in the best of the best.”

If parents are concerned about the environment of the school, he said the board is also prepared to help them move their children to another school.

“It’s sad that it has to come to that, but I have to make sure that the parents feel comfortable, and at least feel like their kids are in a safe environment. It’s terrible that we can’t identify who the person is,” he said.

Linda Bardere, the spokesperson for the district, said at this time she is not able to release the agency names involved in order to protect the integrity of the investigation.

“The last investigation ended when the team was unable to identify the person responsible,” she said in an email.  “The 2018 investigation that was launched on Oct. 2 will include an independent investigator, multiple law enforcement agencies and experts in hate crime investigations.”

Dr. Margaret Hill said the last investigation checked for fingerprints, reviewed surveillance, monitored the school, and was primarily concerned that staff and students were safe. Those protections were in place, but they were unsuccessful in the catch.

This time, she feels the process will be more productive because the superintendent has involved the entire community.

Everyone is watching and listening.

“It’s a small world,” she said. “You never know who might be able to talk to an outsider. When people know who’s involved, and [through] exposure to the community, someone will talk if they think they are not going to get into trouble.”

Having grown up in the segregated South, and as principal for 16 years at San Andreas High School, she’s seen just about every version of racism in existence, but she was also surprised at a recent conversation she heard.

One person commented that they couldn’t believe the racist was teaching Black kids.

“I said, you don’t want them teaching Latinos or white kids. A racist can get their point over to kids without the kids even knowing it,” Dr. Hill said.

The situation is historically familiar, and unnerving, but she said she is just as concerned about how what prejudiced teachers avoid in the classroom that also impacts the kids.

“They’ll cover MLK, Rosa Parks, but I don’t know how many have heard of Frederick Douglas, or how many have heard of Shirley Chisholm,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s not what they’re teaching. It’s what they’re not teaching.”

This article originally appeared in The Precinct Reporter Group.

COMMENTARY: School Choice Not the Right Choice for All Students

COMMENTARY: School Choice Not the Right Choice for All Students

By Dr. Elizabeth Primas

When the best educators in America traveled to Washington, D.C. for a series of events celebrating innovation in the classroom and to share best practices in K-12 education, they let officials at the Department of Education and the White House know exactly how they felt about the Trump Administration’s current push for school choice programs.

According to edchoice.org, school choice programs allow, “public education funds to follow students to the schools or services that best fit their needs—whether that’s to a public school, private school, charter school, home school.”

In April 2018, the Department of Education (ED) hosted the “Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s Drum Major Legacy: Innovative Pathways to Success” celebration; the event was sponsored by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans in collaboration with the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The Education Department’s MLK Legacy event honored individuals who perform extraordinary acts of service in their communities, specifically those individuals who support high-quality education for children of color. Many of the awardees work with parents or community groups that provide primary care for children; some even provide educational support services outside of the traditional public school model.

School choice became a hot topic during the event, as several attendees were visibly disgruntled at the mention of the controversial approach.

The Trump Administration has proposed to decrease funding to authorized investments for public schools while increasing funding opportunities for school choice programs and private school vouchers. Ninety percent of children in America attend public schools. Increased funding to school choice programs, while reducing funding to public schools is a strategy that leaves behind our most vulnerable students.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has repeatedly said that she’s committed to uphold the intentions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the education law signed by President Barack Obama. However, the prioritization of school choice programs in the proposed FY2019 budget contradicts one of the original intentions of the law: to promote equity and increase access to high-quality education for all students. Furthermore, prioritization of school choice isolates homeless children, migrant children, youth in foster care and children from military families. In fact, ESSA requires that school districts report student outcomes for these groups for the very first time.

The 2018 Teacher of the Year awardees echoed similar concerns during their annual White House visit in April. The top teachers in the country reported that they did not approve of funding private schools at the expense of their most vulnerable, at-risk students.

Every child should be entitled to high-quality education in the United States of America. Every neighborhood school should be equipped to provide high-quality courses and curriculum. Every student should have highly-qualified teachers and a menu of extra-curricular activities to choose from. Until the administration prioritizes the equitable improvement of all schools, their verbal commitment to uphold the original intent of ESSA is just another “alternative fact.”

Learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act at nnpa.org/essa.

Dr. Elizabeth Primas is an educator, who spent more than 40 years working towards improving education for children of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds. Dr. Primas is the program manager for the NNPA’s Every Student Succeeds Act Public Awareness Campaign. Follow Dr. Primas on Twitter @ElizabethPrima3.

NNPA Journalism Fellowship Open to all HBCUs

NNPA Journalism Fellowship Open to all HBCUs

By Freddie Allen, Editor-In-Chief, NNPA Newswire

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), in partnership with Chevrolet, recently announced that the 2018 Discover The Unexpected (DTU) Journalism Fellowship will now accept applications from communications and journalism students attending any one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) across the country.

In 2016, the DTU Journalism Fellowship launched at Howard University. The following year, the program expanded to include Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University. Now communications and journalism students at more than 100 HBCUs can apply.

“This year’s program also provides an opportunity for the aspiring, young journalists to look beyond the newsroom for story ideas,” said Michelle Alexander, the diversity marketing manager for Chevrolet. “They will have an opportunity to travel across several states in the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox to discover inspiring stories along the way.”

Hip-hop legend MC Lyte will also return as the program’s ambassador.

For the third year in a row, The Washington Informer and The Atlanta Voice will participate in the program; the New York Amsterdam News in New York City and The New Journal & Guide in Norfolk, Va. will also host DTU journalism fellows.

“DTU fellows will be assigned to write stories that spotlight positive and powerful people and events,” according to a media advisory about the program. “The fellows will be responsible for all aspects of storytelling: writing, videography, photography, research, on-camera reporting and social media posting.”

This year, “the fellows will be placed in two, three-person teams,” the media advisory explained. “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 staffers at NNPA member newspapers.”

Alexa Imani Spencer, a journalism student at Howard University participated in the program last summer, working at The Washington Informer.

“Working for a historically Black publication helped me to understand the full worth of our institutions, as Black people,” Spencer said. “[The fellowship] helped me to understand that there has always been a voice throughout history that has advocated for us and there will always be somewhere, where we can advocate for ourselves, so long as we continue the legacies of these publications.”

Spencer continued: “The Black Press is an institution that the next generation of young, Black journalists has to preserve.”

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. the president and CEO of the NNPA, said that the third year of the DTU Journalism Fellowship represents significant progress in the NNPA’s ability to tap into the rising genius of African American millennials, exposing them to the power of the pen.

“Journalism has experienced renewed interest in the Black community,” Dr. Chavis said. “There has always been a need to not only report the news of Black America to the world at large, but also to be an advocate for the empowerment of African and African American communities across the United States and around the world.”

Dr. Chavis said that the partnership between the NNPA and Chevrolet is setting a standard for the rest of corporate America.

“This is not about philanthropy, this is more about engaging the African American community through the contributions of Chevrolet to the NNPA,” Dr. Chavis said. “It really strengthens one of the fundamental institutions in the Black community, which is the Black Press.”

Spencer said that the 2018 DTU fellows will not only experience personal growth, but that they will also gain a family by completing the program. Spencer also said that the Black Press represents another avenue, where HBCU students can help the Black community thrive.

Dr. Chavis agreed.

“There are tremendous opportunities [in the Black Press] for HBCU journalism and communications students to not only to make their mark in the profession, but to also provide an invaluable service in the Black community,” Dr. Chavis said.

The deadline to submit applications is April 30. Learn more about the NNPA’s Discover The Unexpected Journalism Fellowship at www.nnpa.org/dtu.

Building Education Leaders

Building Education Leaders

By Dianne Anderson

Booking for the upcoming Transformational Leadership Conference is filling up faster than Shinay Bowman expected, but she’s not complaining.

Her phone has been ringing nonstop, and it’s grabbed the attention of top academic administrators across southern California.

“It surpassed our expectations because we only opened the conference at the end of January,” she said.

The event, to be held in Indian Wells from June 26-28, will cover several topics to task educators in leadership on reaching students and parents to make sure more kids don’t fall through the cracks. Bowman said they are hosting breakout sessions, and their superintendent’s panel discussion is about as multi-cultural as it gets.

“We invited diverse superintendents from across California and five have confirmed. We have a Latino, white, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander. What race didn’t we get?” she laughs.

Not everyone asks that question, but she feels they should.

The need for equity to reach students and parents is at a critical point. She said they want to ask the hard questions and get diverse perspectives about how school leaders are dealing with these difficult times.

“How they’re overcoming their struggles with English learner students, African American students, dealing with suicides and shootings. In the face of all that’s going on, how do they maintain moving forward for kids to be successful?” she said.

Bowman, also a certified suicide intervention trainer, hosts training throughout San Bernardino. Her own tragic encounter with a local suicide spurred her to get involved with prevention. She was then a teacher when an eighth-grade student killed himself. He wasn’t in her class,  but she remembers him from her sixth-grade class, and it was devastating.

Superintendents, assistant superintendents and high-level cabinet members are coming to the event from as far away as Northern California and San Diego. However, she hopes more local teachers, and community members participate to stretch the dialogue for best approaches in education.

The cost of the three-day conference is comparable to other education conferences at $450. If that’s too steep, she said 20 volunteer slots with registration waivers are open for those that want to help work the event.

The Transformational Leadership Consortium comprises teachers, principals and county administrators, that work with San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. She said the seven-member board was established four years ago, and has site leaders and program facilitators at area high schools.

“We are women of diversity, and we felt that there was a huge leadership crisis in education,” she said.

Bowman started out as a teacher at San Bernardino Shandin Hills Middle School, later a literacy coach, an assistant principal, and also an interim principal in Fontana. She works for San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools as a program manager.

There, she oversees implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, a program in 15 school districts countywide. PBIS is credited with better alternatives to punishment, and helping reduce suspension and expulsion rates for kids of color.

TLC, a project apart from the county, is also strong on social justice and equity to meet the needs of Black and Brown kids, girls, and all students dealing with behavioral issues.

Educational leadership, youth empowerment, community engagement and creating efficient ways for organizations to work together is their main focus. She hopes the conference will remind educators of why they got into the field in the first place.

“We can’t be supermen or superwomen, but we can be a super-community,” she said. “I feel like a lot of individuals focus on their own ability to go up in education and forget that it’s really about the community and village.”

While the consortium isn’t a church, it may feel that way at times with the Master of Ceremonies, who is both an educational and spiritual leader. Derek Harris, the senior director of risk management at Rialto Unified School District, is also an ordained pastor scheduled to MC the event.

“We’re hoping that this is a weekend that rekindles spirits and hearts to do the right thing for kids,” she said.

Registration is open until May 18.

At the conference, Terrance Stone with Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy will be presenting on working with the youth and community building.

He hopes to get revitalized in being around like-minded nonprofits, educators and leaders that care about the kids and get great information.

“To put some fire under us for going out, working in the community, because it can be tiresome. People on the outside just don’t know how much work goes into community-saving,” he said.

Working in San Bernardino hasn’t been the easiest task, but he said community workers need to have these conversations to empower themselves and the youth.

“It’s kind of about energizing and re-educating ourselves also, so we can really work in a city such as San Bernardino,” Stone said.

For more information, call  (909) 521-0790 or email http://thetlcway.com/

VIDEO: Black Press Honors Sen. Kamala Harris with Newsmaker of the Year Award

VIDEO: Black Press Honors Sen. Kamala Harris with Newsmaker of the Year Award

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) honored Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) with the 2018 Newsmaker of the Year Award during Black Press Week. The Newsmaker event took place at the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday, March 14.

“The Honorable Kamala Harris, the second African American woman and first South Asian American senator in U.S. history, is an outstanding choice for the NNPA’s 2018 Newsmaker of the Year Award,” said Dorothy Leavell, chairman of the NNPA and publisher of the Crusader Newspapers in Chicago and Gary, Ind.

The NNPA also celebrated the senator’s efforts to raise wages for working people, reform the criminal justice system, and expand healthcare access for all Americans.

“In all of my years of covering news in our community, Senator Harris has been one of the smartest, most fearless, steadfast and caring politicians that I have come to know,” said Amelia Ashley-Ward, NNPA Foundation chair and publisher of the San Francisco Sun-Reporter. “She has a lot to offer the world…we are so fortunate to have her advocating on our behalf.”

The theme of this year’s Black Press Week is “Celebrating 191 Years of the Black Press of America: Publishing Truth to Empower.” Black publishers, media professionals, civil rights leaders and lawmakers from across the country attend the annual event, taking place March 14-16. On Friday, March 16, Democratic strategist and author Donna Brazile will deliver a keynote address on the state of the Black Press in America.

“When John B. Russwurm and Samuel E. Cornish printed that first issue of Freedom’s Journal they sought to empower Black people to determine their own destiny and to define themselves,” said Leavell. “How iconic, that in 2018, our theme still rings true: ‘Publishing Truth to Empower.’”

Black Press Week will also feature sessions on business development, education reform, and sickle cell disease. Outstanding leaders in the Black community will be honored during the Torch Awards Dinner.

The Torch Award recipients are: Dr. Amos Brown, pastor of the San Francisco Third Baptist Church; Rep. Barbara Jean Lee (D-Calif.); and James Farmer, a senior consultant for General Motors.

Ken Barrett, the global chief diversity officer for General Motors, said that “Jim” Farmer dedicated his career to transforming the automotive industry through diversity and community service.

“I am proud of the invaluable support Jim continues to provide GM and he is truly most deserving of this prestigious honor,” said Barrett.

Chairman Leavell agreed.

“The NNPA Foundation has chosen some of the most outstanding leaders and trailblazers in the Black community to receive Torch Awards, this year,” said Leavell.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA, said that the NNPA and the NNPA Foundation have joined together to celebrate the 191-year anniversary of the Black Press in America.

“This year, Black Press Week convenes at a time of profound opportunity and responsibility to ensure a record turnout for Black American voters in the upcoming midterm elections across the nation,” said Chavis. “The new strategic alliance between the NNPA and the NAACP bodes well to advance civil rights and the economic, political, and cultural empowerment of Black America.”

The National Newspaper Publishers Association represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies in the United States. The NNPA promotes the profession of journalism and the business of publishing, while celebrating the evolution of the Black Press in America.

Jason Jones Named Riverside County Principal of the Year

Jason Jones Named Riverside County Principal of the Year

Arizona Middle School Principal, Dr. Jason Jones, was summoned to the school’s brand new library building on the morning of Monday, March 5, because there was some kind of a “problem.” The truth was, the still empty building was where his staff had huddled with Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy D. White to surprise Jones with the 2018 Riverside County Principal of the Year award.

“This is crazy. I usually have bunches to say. Now I don’t know what to say,” Dr. Jones said in response to the cheers of his staff. “It’s such a joy being here at Arizona. I love this school and I love this community. I appreciate all of you (staff). I couldn’t do it without you.”

The surprise was made even more special because the county superintendent handing him the award was Jones’ teacher when he was in middle school. The two have kept in touch ever since.

“I’ve known her since I was just a kid. To have her here to give me this award is so exciting,” Dr. Jones said.

Dr. White, noting that Jones was much shorter when he was in her middle school class, read comments from Jones’ colleagues that included how proud they were that their Alvord Unified School District middle school is an AVID National Demonstration School, and gave him credit for the school’s “robust” after-school program.

“Some people serve as principals and they are leaders, but we also want to congratulate you for making an impact on the community,” Dr. White said.

Alvord USD Board President Julie Moreno said the smiles on the faces of the school staff were proof that Jones is well-liked.

“Your staff’s happy faces and their joy means you are their leader,” Moreno said.

A resident of Beaumont, Dr. Jones has served in education for more than 15 years, and as principal at Arizona Middle School for three years. During his brief tenure as principal at Arizona Middle School, Dr. Jones has not only increased student academic performance at a rate far above the state average, but he has also improved student attendance, reduced suspensions and expulsions, enhanced after-school learning, and developed a mentorship program for at-risk students with the Riverside County District Attorney’s office.

“I have always believed in education and educational access for all. As a result of this confidence, I understand the need for leadership that calls people toward a vision of possibility and hope,” Dr. Jones wrote in his application. “I am committed to serving as one who labors daily toward equitable opportunities for all students and communities.”

The full list of categories and honorees for the 2018 Riverside County Educators of the Year is as follows:

  • School Counselor – Jodi Spoon-Sadlon, Elementary School Counselor, Murrieta Valley Unified School District (named on February 21, 2018)
  • Site Support Employee – Susan Hall, Teacher on Special Assignment, Murrieta Valley Unified School District (named on February 21, 2018)
  • Confidential Employee – Cheryl Anderson, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent, Riverside Unified School District (named on February 26, 2018)
  • Principal – Dr. Jason Jones, Principal, Arizona Middle School, Alvord Unified School District (named on March 5, 2018)
  • Certificated Administrator – Dian Martin, Director of Learning Support Services, Perris Union High School District (named on March 1, 2018)
  • Classified Employee – Lindsay Brancato, Attendance Technician, Val Verde Unified School District (named on March 1, 2018)
  • Classified Administrator of the Year – Karl Melzer, Instructional Publication Center Manager, Hemet Unified School District (named on February 15, 2018)

The Riverside County Educators of the Year are selected from the more than 36,000 educational employees in the county. The rigorous application process starts with nominations by teachers, classified employees, and school district administrators throughout the county. Applications are then submitted to the Riverside County Office of Education, where an outside selection committee selects the honorees before the county superintendent announces the honorees.

Along with the 2018 Riverside County Teachers of the Year, the Educators of the Year will be honored at the Riverside County Celebrating Educators Luncheon at the Riverside Convention Center on Tuesday, May 22.

Howard University Students Head to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Recovery

Howard University Students Head to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Recovery

By Tatyana Hopkins, NNPA Special Correspondent

When Oluwakanyinsola Adebola signed up to do community service as part of Howard University’s Alternative Spring Break, she knew she wouldn’t be joining her classmates and thousands of other college students who use their week off to party and play in the sun and surf of Jamaica or Aruba or any of a half dozen other Caribbean locations.

Instead, Adebola would be part of the hundreds of Howard students who, each year for more than 20 years, have given up their traditional spring breaks to serve in communities in need in places like Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Memphis and New Orleans.

Ironically, Adebola will travel to a Caribbean island after all. She will be in Puerto Rico aiding the millions of U.S. citizens still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, which hit the island on September 20.

The storm, which had 155 mph winds, caused at least $90 billion in damage, destroying thousands of homes, killing at least 60 people and decimating the island’s already deteriorating power grid.  Currently, about 1,200 generators power some of the homes, hospitals and schools while seven larger, more powerful energy centers, called microgrids, provide energy to key areas near important buildings like hospitals and schools.

Electricity, however remains a challenge. Recurring blackouts plague the island, and about 340,000 people, are still without power. The blackouts have upset traffic and interrupted water service to dozens of neighborhoods, including the historic Old San Juan in the nation’s capital.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration has been providing relief and rescue efforts, providing meals and water to residents.

Adebola and 47 other students, accompanied by two faculty advisors, land in Puerto Rico Friday, March 9, and begin a week of work on Monday, March 12. The ASB participants will paint schools and fix homes and churches in and around San Juan, the island’s capital.

Howard students will also visit and assist in the daily activities at two Boys and Girls clubs in Las Margaritas and Bayamón about 20 minutes outside of San Juan. Students and faculty will be staying about an hour west of San Juan at a campsite in Arecibo, six people to a room.

This year, no students applying for ASB knew where they would be placed when they signed up for the annual service missions. Applicants selected a service preference ranging from “children/orphanages” to “prison rehabilitation.” The luck of the draw would determine at which of this year’s 15 service sites they would be placed.

Adebola, an ASB first-timer, said when she checked “recovery” on her application, she thought she would be going to Houston or Belle Glade, Fla., two U.S. cities that also were hit hard by hurricanes last fall. She said she never expected to be placed in Puerto Rico.

“I’m really excited,” she said.

A native of Nigeria, Adebola moved to the United States to learn mechanical engineering to further technological advancement in her country, which she said lacks proper waste disposal systems, consistent electricity and access to clean drinking water in many parts of the country.

She said old medical equipment failed to save her 13-year-old sister’s diminishing eyesight, leaving her completely blind.

Adebola, who created a nonprofit organization at 13 to help Nigerian children, said that the goals of ASB align perfectly with hers.

“The purpose of ASB is to help people, and it gives me something productive to do,” she said.

More than 700 students will participate in ASB service missions to 14 other underserved areas and regions devastated by natural disaster this year, including St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Martin, Anguilla, Haiti and Ghana. Groups will also go to Chicago, New Orleans, Port Arthur and Beaumont in Texas, the Florida Keys and Flint, Mich.

“We decided to go to places hit hardest by the hurricane,” said Puerto Rico site coordinator Kyliah Hughes, 20.

According to Hughes, ASB planners wanted to “make a statement” about their commitment to service by visiting places further than the usual domestic sites.

Dijon Stokes, 20, a team leader for Puerto Rico, agreed.

“We have to help beyond borders,” Stokes, said. “We go where we’re needed, and we will visit those places devastated by the hurricane until we see real recovery.”

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 100bmie@gmail.com