February 28, 2011
Intelligent and articulate, they are doing well in school. Responsible and respectful, they are role models for their peers and younger siblings. They are members of the Prairie Middle School Brotherhood, an affinity group for African American boys.
On Feb. 14, seven members of the Brotherhood spoke to more than 100 parents and school administrators at the Parents’ Council monthly meeting. They talked about the difference the Brotherhood has made in their lives.
“Some people think the Brotherhood is just hanging out and eating pizza, but it’s so much more than that,” said Evan Bennett, a seventh-grader. “It has saved me from a path of suspension and expulsion.”
“The Brotherhood is people who have my back and guide me through my challenges,” said Keishun Taylor, also a seventh-grader.
“The Brotherhood has shown me other ways of solving problems,” said sixth-grader Kobe Wright. “I’m more responsible now.”
During monthly Brotherhood meetings, the boys and adult volunteers discuss their history and heritage, cultural awareness, the influences of pop culture, and what it means to be a black man in America today.
“We redefine masculinity,” said David Reed, an African American parent and businessman who volunteers with the Brotherhood and African American Leadership Councils at Prairie and at Eastridge Community Elementary. He says his time with the boys is “non-negotiable,” an iron-clad commitment. “We emphasize character, academics and leadership, and we strive for that character piece first. We show them that being cool is being of character.”
The group also supports the young men’s ambitions and aspirations, which include going to colleges ranging from Ohio State to Harvard and pursuing careers in everything from the NFL to technical engineering to law.
The Brotherhood is just one of the ways Prairie Middle School is working to close the achievement gap and raise the achievement of all students. The school uses culturally-relevant instruction, proven academic programs, and affinity groups for both African American and Hispanic students and parents, as well as programs and activities that bring all students and families together.