Across Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, professional black men are increasingly taking black youths into their care. Hundreds of mentoring matches are underway, and efforts are growing to add more. The goal is to help the young men envision another kind of future – to save them from the streets, prison or early death.
Thursday night, the group that helped Gallaher – the Hearts and Minds Pipeline Program – will hold a health symposium to explain the physical and mental health needs unique to African-American males. The program's larger goal is to increase the number of African-American males in the health professions.
"Our black boys can do more than play athletics," said Gary Favors, 46, a Cincinnati Public Schools teacher and Hearts and Minds' founder. "We have to stop pigeon-holing them and start exposing them to other areas of interest."
To make his point that young black males are an "endangered species," Favors keeps copies of a national educational report in his briefcase to share. The Schott Foundation for Public Education shows in its "The Urgency of Now" report that only 10 percent of black males in eighth grade are proficient in reading and 52 percent of black males graduate high school in four years.
Ohio's black graduation rate is 45 percent, compared to 80 percent for white, non-Latino students. In Kentucky, the black graduation rate is 58 percent, compared with 69 percent for white students.
If young black males are not steered in a positive life direction as early as the fourth or fifth grade, Favors said, prison becomes a likely destination. Nationally, African-Americans make up 13.6 percent of the population, but 40.2 percent of all prison inmates are black men.
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