Jackson Community College Targets Town’s Black Male Residents

Just two months after holding its first African-American Male Summit, Jackson (Mich.) Community College (JCC) is taking steps to get Black male students involved in the Michigan town. The college is also quickly becoming the nucleus of community involvement for many African-American residents.

JCC recently released a report, which examines the obstacles and roles that education and family structure play in the lives of Black males in Jackson, which is 80 miles west of Detroit. The report entitled, “The Jackson African-American Male Summit Executive Report,” also evaluates the state’s penal system. Among the more than 100 recommendations included in the 70-page document are: the hiring of more minority teachers, the establishment of a mentorship program, and the increase of diversity among law enforcement and within the state’s jury system.

“Our objective was to address some of the challenging conditions that are facing young African-American males. We wanted to identify the reasons for their lack of achievement in education and identify the barriers that are preventing them from steering clear of the penal system,” says Lee Hampton, director of the Office of Multicultural Relations at JCC, who adds that many of the college’s proposals are modeled after the national, multi-partner initiative, Achieving the Dream, to help more community college students earn degrees.

Among the findings included in the report, obstacles that keep many of the Black males in Jackson, a small city that was 19 percent Black according to the 2000 Census, from succeeding in secondary and higher education are the availability of drugs, lack of parental involvement and supervision, the lack of diversity among teachers and staff, and poverty. The report encourages legislators to revise the state’s education system and provide a community college education free of charge. Local officials are also calling on churches and religious organizations to be more involved with the educational process.

Hampton adds that report information gathered by college and local officials will be presented “to entities within our community that work directly with African-American males and then this information would hopefully affect their decisions and policymaking and help them allocate their resources more effectively.”

                                                                     

The report also cites unequal treatment of Blacks within the state’s criminal justice system, the normalizing of incarceration among many members of the African-American community, and the media’s glamorization of committing crimes as contributing to the barriers that keep many of the district’s young Black males from succeeding.

As a result of the Male Summit held in May, the college is now teaming up with the Ella Sharp Museum of Art and History to create an exhibit, which will illuminate the contributions of Jackson’s African-American residents. Officials also note that the project is an important step forward in making local Black residents feel more inclusive in the community.

This partnership is the first of a series of initiatives being planned by the college in efforts to spur more public involvement and teach youth about the many contributions Blacks have made to American society throughout history. For example, Hampton notes that college officials are engaging in dialogue with local public school officials in efforts to launch an initiative that would invite successful Black male residents of Jackson to teach special courses to area students.

Dan Evans, superintendent of Jackson Public Schools, says that the district’s partnership with JCC will incorporate ways to introduce students to the prospects of higher education early on.

“Being that our district is the biggest and most diverse in the three-county area, this would be beneficial for us and means that our students will take advantage of this resource,” he says.

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