A new program hopes to work with over 300 African-American boys in Dane County to boost academic success, graduation rates and lower truancy rates.
Project SOAR is an initiative from 100 Black Men of Madison that will incorporate mentoring, career information and discussions on social issues.
Floyd Rose, president of 100 Black Men of Madison, announced the initiative at a press conference Wednesday morning. MMSD Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, Mayor Paul Soglin and Police Chief Mike Koval were among the school and community leaders at the conference.
“For African-American youth in Madison, truancy is a symptom of a much larger problem: poverty,” Rose said in a statement. “The vast majority of African-American male students in Madison have experienced poverty and its resulting symptoms such as unstable housing, inadequate health care and escalating community violence. All of these factors and more contribute to chronic absenteeism. We are committed to being positive role models in these students’ lives and ensure they are on a path to stay in school and graduate.”
Project SOAR will work with African-American male students ages 12-17 in the Madison Metropolitan School District. The program will rigorously work with youth to identify "SMART" (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) career goals, provide one-on-one mentoring, and facilitate discussions surrounding social issues affecting young black males.
The project is setting goals that include reducing truancy by 7 percent and raising graduation rates by 5 percent over three years for young black male students. It is also committing more than 2,000 hours of community service from all participants to local programs.
“As a community, we need to lift up our students, see their strengths and wrap our support around them, especially for our students of color,” Cheatham said in a statement. “The mentoring and support that Project SOAR will provide our African-American students will do that, and we are excited to work with the 100 Black Men of Madison to make the program successful.”
Three hundred students will participate in Project SOAR’s Career Academy and Success Academy. The Career Academy will teach students about career options. The Success Academy will focus on sharing information on issues concerning African-American male youths like relationships, gangs, school, family, the justice system and financial literacy.
Community organizations like the United Way of Dane County, CUNA Mutual Fund, African-American fraternities and sororities and more are involved. They will also collaborate with the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Madison Police Department.
Community members interested in participating in the project can contact 100 Black Men of Madison through its website.