FACT: Black women are the most educated group in the United States. There’s a higher percentage of black women enrolled in four-year colleges across the nation than any other group. The news proved worthy of a high-five, fist bump and a hair flip for all black women, and acted as a standard for others to follow suit. But the celebratory news begged another question: what about black boys?
As black women continue to break glass ceilings, black boys are unfortunately being targeted for prison as early as kindergarten. Verizon–hoping to change that narrative–unveiled its Innovative Learning program for Minority Males at he 2016 Essence Festival. During a dinner at New Orleans famed Dooky Chase restaurant, Verizon’s Vice President of Customer Care Kwame Trotman along with singer-songwriter Kelly Rowland spoke about the initiative and why its needed.
“When you think about the Verizon Innovative Learning Program for minority males, that’s an opportunity for us to actually touch young youth, right? And we have a great representation in the back room, ” Trotman said pointing to a few students from the program who were also at the restaurant. “At an early age and given the encouragement and letting them know that we have the tools and we also give them the pathway to allow them to do anything they want to do. They are our future creators, they are our future leaders, they are the ones that one day will help lead our company to greatness. And that’s where we knew we really wanted to make [the impact.]
The initiative is a two year program that gives middle-school boys access to high grade technology, which will allow them the opportunity to learn coding, robotics, 3D design, and STEM. There’s no slacking off in the summer, as the students will be engrossed in all day technology courses at participating universities across the nation, and when the school year resumes students meet with mentors for support and guidance.
A few of the colleges participating in the Verizon Innovative Learning Program are Clark Atlanta University, University of the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C, Delaware State University, Texas Southern University, and Trotman’s alma matter Hampton University.
Kelly Rowland, who’s the mother to her soon-to-be 2 year old son Titan praised Verizon for their bold step to invest in black boys, but also spoke directly to the young men in attendance and offered sound advice.
“Looking at these gentlemen, I do see my son and I just pray they make great decisions. I I pray you always listen and that you take in your surroundings. It’s fun listening to “Panda” but “Panda” can’t get you your education. “Panda” can’t help you in school, “Panda” is like all those things, like I said we love “Panda” I get it but just make sure you have your priorities. If you have your goals, write those down. And put them right in front of you everyday. That way you don’t lose thought and you don’t lose sight of what exactly it is that you want.”