Last year, the first-ever African American Achievement Summit was an acknowledgment that our systems have not served Black students effectively. This was evident through dropout rates, expulsions and the significant disparity in youth disconnection of Black youth versus White youth—an 11% gap.
Part of the OpportunitySD initiative, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, San Diego Unified School District, San Diego Community College District, UCSD CREATE and United Way of San Diego concluded that one-size-fits-all programs are not working for Black youth and decided to test targeted interventions.
On June 4, Mesa College hosted the second annual African American Achievement, which brought together more than 500 students from all over the district. The day was a celebration of African American/Black identity and was emceed by motivational speaker Jordan Harrison.
There were over 40 workshops, all from the African American/Black lenses, available to students—focusing on culture, building student agency and advocacy, empowerment, college access, employment opportunities, entrepreneurship and more. The presenters represented a powerhouse mix of African American educators, counselors, business people, City and County officials, and nonprofit leaders, which led to great in-depth conversation amongst students.
Throughout the day, students were able to visit various resource fair vendors and enjoy live music and entertainment featuring a student drumline/band performance and dance show from Morse High School.
While the summit is a bold acknowledgment of past failures and a great step in the right direction, it is only one step. To reduce San Diego’s Black disconnection rate permanently, massive structural changes and policies are required.
No one school district or institution can do it alone. It will take all of us coming together to make this happen. The only question is: when we will put competing agendas to the side and build enough political will to ensure all students get the opportunity to reach their full potential, participate and prosper in San Diego?
For more information, contact Eric Morrison-Smith or visit opportunitysd.org.