At Communities In Schools of Atlanta, 95% of the students we serve are African American and live in limited resource communities of DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton and the City of Atlanta. We know that in these impoverished neighborhoods there are less job opportunities, lack of nutritional food sources and a shortage of adequate housing. A recent Harvard University study even found that the poverty rate in metro Atlanta has tripled over the years. Specifically, metro Atlanta counted 102 high-poverty neighborhoods back in 2000 and by 2015, that number grew to 304.
Our job is to help our students and their families from becoming victims of this ongoing cycle of generational poverty. Our work is necessary, complex and effective. At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, 92% of the students we served were promoted and graduated high school. By 2021, we plan on having 95% or more of the kids we serve graduate. We are accomplishing great results in the community, but there is more work to be done.
A report released by The Economic Policy Institute revealed that there has been limited progress in how African Americans compare to whites when it comes to home-ownership, unemployment and incarceration. In 2017 the black unemployment rate was 7.5 percent, still roughly twice that of the white unemployment rate. The black home-ownership rate was just over 40 percent, still a full 30 points behind the white home-ownership rate. Furthermore, the number of African Americans in prison or jail almost tripled between 1968 and 2016 and is currently more than six times the white incarceration rate.
Another study led by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau, found that the income inequality between black and white males is surprisingly prevalent today. In fact, in 99% of neighborhoods in the United States, black boys earn less in adulthood than white boys who grow up in families with similar incomes. These statistics are daunting and disheartening, but we know that reducing the black-white gap will require continuous efforts to increase upward mobility for black Americans, especially black men.
At CIS of Atlanta we support African American boys by equipping them with academic assistance and advancement opportunities. We do this through our model and programs such as Real Talk about the Law, XY-Zone and Barbershop Talks. These programs allow us to reach boys by addressing struggles they face such as grades, attendance, staying in school and being motivated to get to the next level. We instill in them that education will give them the tools to make the best decisions. We take them to our nation’s capital and New York City. Our students have met with political figures such as former First Lady Michelle Obama, Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal, U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph Alles and Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim. They’ve also met with influencers like CBS This Morning co-host Norah O'Donnell, CNN political commentator Angela Rye, The Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank and Grammy award-winning artist and entrepreneur Kandi Burruss.
We’re not only giving them encouraging words and experiences, but we’re moving and sticking with them after graduation. For example, we’ve supported Devonte Wyatt, now a defensive tackle at the University of Georgia. Wyatt was on CIS of Atlanta’s caseload since his freshman year at Tower’s High School in DeKalb County. We stuck with him all four years and afterwards helped him in a community college so that he could transfer to UGA.
Likewise, we’ve helped Kemari Averett, a rising star and tight end at the University of Louisville. Averett faced many challenges before he went college. During his senior year in high school, CIS of Atlanta stepped in and provided him with four months of housing assistance. After being accepted into college, one of our program managers, Calleb Obumba, drove 14 hours from Atlanta to U of L because Averett had no adult figure to do so. We were even there to support him at his most recent Tax Slayer Bowl.
What does all this mean?
How can we do more to help kids?
We need more mentoring relationships with positive black men. We need to ensure that black boys are getting the advice and support they need to succeed. We need you to help us improve the lives of disadvantaged black boys by getting involved in schools, becoming a mentor and supporting CIS of Atlanta in our initiatives. We know this is a significant driver when you look at the data. 66% of black kids living in high-poverty neighborhoods have few fathers present.
We also combat statistics by putting site coordinators inside of schools. Our site coordinators are currently placed in 65 schools and give approximately 4,500 students intensive individualized support throughout the year. They break down educational and non-educational barriers and spend over 72,000 hours directly serving students. This helps our students beat the odds and overcome the racial disparities that kids in our community face.
Overall, CIS of Atlanta’s mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Our goal is to dispel the negative statistics by providing critical services to low-income students and families. Our wrap-around services provide housing, food, funeral and clothing assistance. This school year, in addition to academic assistance we helped over 80 families and provided nearly $80,000 in emergency aid. We provide this aid so kids have a sense of stability, allowing them to focus on school instead of focusing on their basic needs.
You can help our students beat the odds too by becoming informed, donating and volunteering your time with CIS of Atlanta.