- Three years ago, a grant-funded initiative originally know as “The Boys Institute” began at Stanton Elementary School in Washington, D.C., with a focus on promoting wellness and creativity among 45 3rd-5 grade boys in a low-income neighborhood, EdSurge reports.
- The initiative, which is now known as The Creative School, is an in-school and after-school program developed to help boys of color, nominated by their teachers, to build a strong sense of identity and pride, and increase their opportunities for creative expression.
- With the help of community partnerships, the “peace kings” (as the boys refer to themselves) are learning to flip the ordinary narratives concerning students in their circumstances, and replace them with new stories of hope, pride, mutual support, self-discipline and improved academic outcomes, even though academic improvement was not the stated goal of the program.
While this initiative may not be easily replicated in other communities with fewer grant and community resources, there are still lessons that can be applied to other school situations. This program was designed to focus on developing wellness and a strong sense of racial identity in students and ended up improving outcomes. These students, it is to be noted, were selected by teachers as having skills and support systems in place that would help them succeed. However, it may be that, as time goes on, younger students and their families may work harder to be selected for inclusion, a positive end in itself.
Much of the success of this program seems to be in the positive attitude toward these students and the attitudes the teachers and administrators are seeking to instill in these students. A 2012 study of black adolescents indicted that “when African American parents instill a proud, informed, and sober perspective of race in their sons and daughters, these children are more likely to experience increased academic success,” according to Ming-Te Wäng, the lead author. Such perspectives can help counteract the effect of poverty and other factors that have created a crisis of failure among many black male students. A growth mindset among teachers and students is also needed, and schools can instill a sense of pride in students by recognizing their personal achievements.