Is California’s education system addressing the needs of boys and men of color? That was the topic proposed during a California Assembly hearing on July 29 at the California African American Museum, located in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park.
Organized by the California assemblymembers Reggie Jones-Sawyer (District 59) and Rob Bonta (District 18), and moderated by Bonta and Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, the hearing brought together three panels of leaders from education and organizations that work to directly influence and create positive change for students of color.
Matthew Smith, director of educational partnerships for the Male Success Alliance (MSA) at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), was asked to join the panel addressing post-secondary education, which included Julie Sinai, policy director of REDF Investing in Employment and Hope, and Jeffrey Wallace, president and CEO of LeadersUp.
Smith provided an overview of MSA history, its structure, and its mission, and discussed how the organization is a brotherhood that inspires and supports its members academically and in life. He also described how MSA members mentor and work with young men of color in the schools and communities that CSUDH serves to improve their success in school and at home, and encourage involvement within their communities.
“The outcomes for MSA can be summed up by our ‘three C’s’–conscious, competent and committed. We want our young men to be conscious of who they are, where they come from, and the oppressive policies and ideologies that lead to inequitable outcomes,” said Smith. “We want them to be competent, to master their craft by excelling inside and outside of the classroom. And we want them to be committed to lifelong learning, social justice, civic engagement, and the process of becoming better men.”
Other speakers during the hearing included Earl Perkins, assistant superintendent of the School Operations Division, Los Angeles Unified School District; Ramona E. Bishop, superintendent of the Vallejo Unified School District, and president of the California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators; and Alex Johnson, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund.
Smith concluded his remarks with data that demonstrates the success of the MSA. The chapter boasts a 90 percent retention rate among its members, he said, and the same percentage of the “2016 MSA high school graduating class” is expected to enroll in college in fall 2016, with 52 percent of them enrolling at a four-year university.
“These outcomes are possible due to collaboration with our local community, and our focus on countering the master narrative regarding the lack of achievement for boys and men of color,” he said. “Instead, we work together to speak to their promise, and legacy of resilience and success.”