Perspectives on the Eagle Academy for Young Men
In January 2010, Mayor Bloomberg asked me to help create a new citywide initiative that would focus on providing services to young black and Latino men. Bloomberg was serious about addressing the needs of this specific group of New Yorkers. As founding principal of the Eagle Academy for Young Men, a network of innovative all-boys public schools in New York City, and now as President of the Eagle Academy Foundation, it was a challenge I was happy to accept.
The Mayor asked me to study and quantify what life is like for young black and Latino men in the five boroughs and make recommendations to the city on how to assist a population that fares poorly on every indicator of positive achievement. We used local and national data that had never been compiled before and worked alongside Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and then-Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott to learn as much as possible about these young men, their families and how city agencies interact with them.
We found a portrait of a crisis. Compared to their white and Asian peers, they are twice as likely to grow up in homes without fathers and be raised by mothers who never finished high school. This group makes up 86 percent of New York City’s foster care population, nearly 70 percent of special education classes and 84 percent of city detention facilities. While the achievement gap is shrinking, the graduation rate is still barely above 50 percent for black and Latino males. Their unemployment rate is 60 percent higher than their peers. Failures in education, combined with the lack of suitable mentors and job opportunities, leave these young men vulnerable and unprepared. Three out of four young men of color who leave Rikers Island eventually return.
In August, Mayor Bloomberg announced The Young Men’s Initiative – a bold new program that grew from the research to correct the problems that slow the advancement of our young black and Latino men. The initiative brings the public and private sectors together to fund a three year, $127 million program that, for the first time, connects young men of color to educational, employment and mentoring opportunities across more than a dozen city agencies. This includes steps like new metrics for School Progress Reports to hold schools accountable for the performances of black and Latino males.
The moral argument for this type of program and systemic change is simple. Our society must live up to its creed that everyone has a fair shot to live the American dream – an ideal that is inextricably linked to the future of our nation. #
Dr. David Banks is the principal of Eagle Academy and president of the Eagle Academy Foundation.