Students to be honored during event at Concordia University for their participation in the African-American Male Initiative Leadership Training
Wauwatosa School District seniors Christopher Ashley, Javion Graham, and Emmanuel Spence will be honored during an upcoming luncheon at Concordia University to celebrate their participation in the African-American Male Initiative (AAMI), an initiative to support young African-American men obtain higher academic achievement in high school.
All three Wauwatosa students have participated in the African-American Male Initiative for the past four years, including its Summer Institute at Concordia University. Most recently they were selected for the AAMI’s Leaders in Training program.
The students were also recognized by the Wauwatosa School Board during its meeting on Monday, February 11 for their leadership training.
The African-American Male Initiative is a product of the Closing the Achievement Gap Consortium - a partnership of Milwaukee-area schools, including the Wauwatosa School District, and Concordia University - that works to identify strategies to effectively close the gap between students of color and their Caucasian classmates in academic achievement. More than 150 young men participate in AAMI including 40 from the Wauwatosa School District.
During the Summer Institute, hosted on Concordia’s campus, African-American male students are invited to stay on campus for four days to get a sense of college life. They take classes designed to help better prepare them for higher education, develop relationships with other African-American men who serve as mentors and role models, and learn how to positively influence others within their community.
“I feel like it was really meaningful and powerful. They gave us an outlet, as African-American males, to express ourselves and have a mentor helping guide us through our high school experience,” Christopher Ashley told the Wauwatosa School Board.
Javion Graham told school board members the African-American Male Initiative changed his life, opening doors to new possibilities.
“AAMI for me was amazing. I got to meet so many successful black men that it painted the picture for me that I could be something different,” said Graham. “Where I come from a lot of role models are rappers or gang members - people who portray themselves as “neighborhood heroes” - so it was great to meet people who aren’t on that spectrum, people who showed that they actually cared for me.”
During the Leaders in Training program, Graham said the students were challenged to think about their “why” for participating. It was then that Graham said he realized the significance of his reason.
“My reason is small but so big to me. I want to be the first black male in my family to graduate high school, and I’m going to be the first black male in my family to go to college. And having all these people motivating me, wanting me to succeed, it makes it even greater”.
Learn more about the African American Male Initiative here.
To listen to the students' comments to the school board, click here. (see comments beginning at 14:36 and 2:54 in the video)