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Brotherhood’ At Hoover High Helps African American Male Students Succeed

Students from Hoover High School pose for a picture after a

Photo by Priya Sridhar

Above: Students from Hoover High School pose for a picture after a "Brothers of Excellence" meeting, April 17, 2019.

Ten percent of African American students at Hoover High School have been suspended at least once. African American students also lag behind their peers in English and math.

That's why school staff decided to start Brothers of Excellence, specifically for African American male students.

"There’s maybe a handful of African American role models on this campus so I wanted to enlighten the young men by being positive and doing something around here to help them see who they are and who they can become," said Robert Spriggs, who has worked at the school for 13 years and helped start the program.

Every Wednesday around two dozen students meet during lunchtime and hear from a local African American leader in the community. At a recent meeting, James Williams, a Navy veteran, joined the group to talk about his life and joining the military. Williams says he spent years of his childhood homeless, dropped out of school and joined a gang.

"I am hoping that I can let them know that there is an opportunity ... there is a way out of whatever their situation may be if they take advantage of their time now," Williams said.

The program is also hoping to tackle some of the challenges these students face in school. Three out of four African American students in California are not reading at grade level, according to the state's Department of Education.

"One thing we always like to come back to is that literacy element and that literacy component, where they understand that if they read literature that looks like them and speaks to them, one, it will make them a lover of reading and secondly, it would allow them to explore identities that they might not be able to otherwise," said Ronald Preston Clark, a student-teacher at the school who leads the program every Wednesday.

Many of the students, such as 11th grader Sala Issa, say they feel more comfortable talking about their issues with other students who are like them.

"It feels like family," Issa said. "Everyone is open to share their feelings and emotions and it just makes you want to progress and just be a better human being for the community."

Other students say it inspires them to give back to their community and possibly mentor younger people in the future.

"I hope to always have this resonate with me and one day when I become super successful, come back and help furnish this group and help it grow and so another student who is probably like me sees someone like me and thinks, 'Wow, I can do that,'" 11th grader Armonni Hamlin said. "I want to be the stepping stone that people look at so they can become successful and give back to their community."

The school staff say they also hope it allows the students to see African American men in a positive way.

"Well, just look on the news. Young men are being slain either by the hand of other black men or by the police" Spriggs said. "So I'd rather get them in a situation where I can pour into them and empower them to make better decisions and better choices with their lives."

Some students say Brothers of Excellence inspires them to give back to their community and possibly mentor younger people in the future.

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