Updated: 04/11/2014 7:11 AM
Created: 04/10/2014 4:24 PM KSTP.com
By: Brandi Powell
Minneapolis Public Schools is implementing a new initiative to push for a brighter future for some of its students.
Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson says African American males are the lowest-performing group in many areas.
For example, math proficiency is about 40 percent district-wide. It's half of that for black males, at about 20 percent.
The numbers are even more startling with reading. Proficiency across the district is about 40 percent, compared to less than 19 percent for African American males.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS visited Patrick Henry High School to get a closer look at how the district is working to create more success stories.
Public schools in Minneapolis are taking learning to the next level. In a first of its kind move for the district, black male students will be supported in more aggressive ways. The first step - strong mentorship programs.
At Patrick Henry High School they're kicking off the brand new initiative with something called 100 Strong Who Care: Black Male Edition, where local black professionals will share their stories about how they got to where they are today.
"It's very important for black males to see models of success in their own community," said Crystal Ballard, Principal Intern at Patrick Henry High School.
College-bound senior Malcolm Young-Harris said, "It just makes you believe. If somebody can do it, you can do it, you know - If another black person can do it, I can do it, too."
The black male achievement program is working to make more students college-bound.
KSTP spoke with Chris Chatmon, Executive Director of the African American Achievement Program at Oakland Unified in California. Chatmon said the questions they're asking are: "What can we collectively do different? Teachers - how do we teach differently? Principals - how do we lead differently?"
Johnson said they're moving in the right direction. More black males graduated from Minneapolis High Schools in 2013, than in 2012. The grad rate was up 10 percent.
Johnson said that's not enough. "No, it's not. It's appalling." Johnson said she hopes this will produce better outcomes, such as more graduates, faster. "And outcomes not only in terms of academic achievement, but in terms of how they see their outlook on life."
Young-Harris said he believes programs like these will help his future, "I believe so. It makes you get ideas in your head about what you want to become."
The model that Minneapolis is using is based off of an Oakland, California public schools initiative.
Friday morning, 100 Strong Who Care will be at Patrick Henry High School.
They're hoping there's at least one mentor for each of the nearly 200 black males students who attend Patrick Henry.