Mentoring program is begun for black male students

February 04, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

A school system initiative announced last year to help black male students do better in math and science finally is under way at Oakland Mills High School.

"We've gotten so much cooperation from Oakland Mills, it's been wonderful," said Gloria Washington, a facilitator for the school system's Black Student Achievement Program, which is sponsoring the initiative.

Orientation for the initiative, called "Focus: The African-American Male Learner," will be held today for 10th-grade black male students, Monday for ninth-graders and Tuesday for 11th- and 12th-graders.

Two local men will serve as mentors: Donald F. Wallace, a consultant with Wallace and Prior Consultants in Columbia, a group that develops self-esteem programs for blacks; and Charconn Rice, a student at Howard Community College.

On Jan. 10, the mentors met with the Oakland Mills staff to officially begin the program.

The new program was prompted by last year's Maryland Functional Test results, which showed that 50.5 percent of the county's black ninth-grade males passed the math test.

That was the weakest performance of any racial or gender group in the county on the test, one of a battery of state tests students must pass to graduate from high school.

In November, the Black Student Achievement Program began discussing plans for a program of academic mentors and monitors to help black male students increase their test scores in math and science.

The idea was to have mentors meet with students for structured study time during the students' regular advisory or study periods. They also would meet individually or in a group on the weekends and after school to monitor the students' progress.

Initially, the group wanted to start the program at Wilde Lake VTC High School by Christmas, but plans were delayed when Wilde Lake Principal Bonnie Daniel said she wanted to review the initiative and have her staff review it.

Plans hit a further snag when Ms. Daniel went on a lengthy medical leave at Thanksgiving, returning after the new year. No one else at the school was authorized to make a decision on the program in her absence, Ms. Daniel said.

"When I returned, I was told that the program was placed at Oakland Mills," Ms. Daniel said. "I certainly didn't reject it."

Ms. Daniel said that she had no objection to the idea of academic monitors but that "I wanted to do it slightly different. . . . I'd like to see more of an effort in the community with the parents."

Ms. Washington said that while the Wilde Lake principal was on leave, Oakland Mills expressed interest in the program and the Black Student Achievement Program decided to start there.

"I don't want it to be an indictment on Wilde Lake," Ms. Washington said. "It was a decision we made."

Though the program formally will be headquartered at Oakland Mills, it is open to students at Wilde Lake and other area high schools, she said.

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