May 1 was National Decision Day — a day that graduating seniors accept the offer of admissions to their school of choice — however many of our Future Ready Bexar County Plan partners are celebrating with events across the month.
While there are a lot of students we need to celebrate advancing into their postsecondary journeys, there are still a great deal of young people in our community who lack resources and opportunities that aid in enrollment to a postsecondary degree or credential program.
While there are Future Ready Bexar County Plan partners such as Workforce Solutions Alamo, San Antonio Growth of the Eastside and SA Worx that all work on aspects of readiness for, and access to, postsecondary programs, we are focusing today’s profile on the work that 100 Black Men of San Antonio is doing locally, particularly for young men and women of color.
Nationally, 100 Black Men aims to improve the quality of life and enhance education opportunities for African-Amerians in their communities. Our local organization does this through mentoring boys and young men and women of color through its programming.
100 Black Men of San Antonio “focuses on education, economic empowerment, health and wellness and leadership development all anchored in mentorship,” the organization’s local Executive Director Dr. Milton Harris, DBA, told UP Partnership.
The organization specifically does most of their work by providing an alternative high school completion program for young people who have dropped out of high school which incorporates a workforce development credential component. This allows the young people going through 100 Black Men’s programming to have a say in their chosen career path.
Through a partnership with fellow Future Ready Bexar County participant, Communities in Schools San Antonio, mentorship is offered in Byron P. Steele High School, Clemens High School, John Jay High School, Oak Crest Elementary, Roosevelt High School and Sam Houston High School. The 100 Black Men also mentor with their Collegiate 100 of St. Philip’s College, a campus student success program in which mentorship is provided at the St. Philip’s College Early College High School with the intention of showing students that there are people outside of their family and school community that care about them and want them to succeed.
Another example of this is the work 100 Black Men of San Antonio has done includes work they are doing with the Broady Academy located in Kirby, Texas on the far eastside of Bexar County, which gives young people who are disconnected to school or workforce, also known as opportunity youth, the chance to obtain a high school diploma, not a GED diploma or certificate.
This distinction in high school diploma attainment is important for those young people that would want to enter the U.S. armed forces, Harris explained, as “the U.S. military does not always allow entrance with a GED” and that through his organization’s experience they have seen the military frequently not accept candidates with a GED credential.
Last year, 14 young men of color who were considered opportunity youth or who were underemployed were able to get this diploma through that mentorship program. Those young men will no longer be considered high school dropouts and are now reconnected to the path of potential postsecondary or credential programming, which is another part of 100 Black Men’s programming.
Currently, the organization also offers several credentialing programs; two in-house workforce credentialing programs and other collaborative credentialing programs:
• Home Building Institute Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (HBI-PACT) and the National Center for Construction Engineering Research (NCCER), both are performance-based learning curricula that incorporate academic skills training, life skills, career development and on-the-job training in construction. Participants in this program receive curriculum built by the National Center for Construction Education and Research on construction and maintenance and receive a certificate of completion that is accepted across multiple states.
• Google Professional Certificate Program, which offers outside IT certification to any member of the community who would like to take the training. In the upcoming years, the hope is to bring this program in-house when qualified instructors are hired and the program expanded.
• Certified Nurse Assistant Program (CNA), which offers CNA skills and development training and certification to opportunity youth in partnership with the School of Excellence Certified Nurse Assistant training program.
100 Black Men of San Antonio also offers many other programs to the community that focus on healthy well-being of its programming participants, creating mentorship relationships and establishing access to credentials and workforce readiness, a key component of the the Future Ready Bexar County Plan — whose collective North Star is to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030. The plan is centered around the three equity pillars of healing access and voice, the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people.
While 100 Black Men of San Antonio’s mentor and workforce development programs are firmly rooted in the access equity pillar — young people will be future ready when the can access high quality education and career opportunities — the organization recently received funding from the Department of Labor Education and Training YouthBuild grant and Corporate Partnership for Racial Equity (CPRE) to expand high school completion and workforce credentialing programming, as well as healing restorative justice practices in their community.
“YouthBuild literally saved my life,” said one participant.
While another participant stated that the programming they went through “was the step I needed to finally move forward in life.”
A total of 49 young men were enrolled across the organization’s programs. This work continues to combat the number of opportunity youth in Bexar County by ensuring young men who have either dropped out of high school or are underemployed have access to opportunities that can offer them a different future.
Uniquely, 100 Black Men of San Antonio is a membership organization for those men who want to be a part of the work being done by being mentors. Prospective members must submit an application, letters of recommendation and be able to pass a background check. Final approval of membership is determined by the Board of Directors membership subcommittee. Once membership is approved, an annual fee of $300 is required before a new member becomes active in the organization.
For Harris, it is vital that those being mentored see people who are like themselves because “what they see is what they will be,” which is why the network of mentors come from various professional backgrounds including entrepreneurs, finance, banking, the military and more. The organization’s membership include successful men who often identify as Black, African American or Indigenous who are positive, loving and caring people that share their struggles and their successes with their mentees. The organization’s mentors are men and women who come from diverse backgrounds and demographics in order to offer the greatest exposure and opportunities to the youth served.
Looking to the future, Harris is looking to scale the certification from pre-apprenticeship programs, serve more participants and expand their workforce development to include electrical, plumbing, HVAC and welding training. Additionally, the organization is looking to not only solidify their relationships with current employment partners but to expand to new employers in the community.
When asked about any challenges or obstacles from the community or schools, Harris says that has never been an issue. Rather, “the biggest hurdle we face is the demographic we work with,” Harris acknowledges. “We work with young people who have dropped out of high school, or are living a rough life, causing them to have low self-esteem or low-self worth. That is the biggest hurdle that we face.
To overcome that hurdle, Harris and his team believe that cross-sector collaboration provided by UP Partnership is necessary to the work being done. They have been able to connect with other community organizations, school districts and so many more community members who have helped propel the work forward.
Discussing if he ever sees an end to the work, Harris doesn’t believe that will happen anytime soon. “Unfortunately, the need for the work has been around for decades and I see it being around for decades to come,” he said. “In the current system of education there are too many barriers that lead to young people dropping out. Ultimately, as long as there is poverty in our society, the work we do will be necessary.”
To learn more about 100 Black Men of San Antonio, please visit https://www.100blackmensa.org.
If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement, please contact email@example.com to find out more information on how you can become a Future Ready partner or donate to the work here.
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