Manhood Development class aims to support black males

Manhood Development class aims to support black males

Pearl Joy Balagot

THE RIGHT PATH Jason Seals teaches Manhood Development on Feb. 13. The class was started as part of the Oakland Unified School District's African American Male Achievement program to raise the graduation rate among black males.

Fremont Federation of High Schools has freshmen added a new elective — Manhood Development — specifically designed to help African American males succeed.

The class is taught by Jason Seals, who also teaches at Merritt College and who ran a pull-out class called “Males in Motion” for African American boys at Fremont last year.

The new class is part of the African American Male Achievement (AAMA) program, which was started by Superintendent Tony Smith to try to help reverse the trend of African American males dropping out of school.

“We believe all African American male students are extraordinary and deserve a school system that meets their unique and dynamic needs,” said AAMA Director Christopher Chatmon.

Chatmon also said the program aims to improve attendance, decrease the number of disciplinary incidents and improve the “life outcomes” of participating students. He said he thinks the class will help students improve their self esteem.

This is the first time African American males have had a special course for a regular class. The class, held in Mandela Academy during second period, has 17 freshman boys enrolled.

Students “will be learning about what it means to be a man,” said Seals. ”I hope they build a community even after I’m gone for peer support.”

Sirtoine Walker is a freshman from Media Academy who agreed to drop his computer graphics class so that he could take the new course.

“I can learn about my heritage, more about myself as an African American student, and it helps us to be more respectful to each other and to stay together as a brotherhood,” said Walker.

Another student in the program, Brandon Etter, said he is happy to be in the program “because I don’t have any African American teachers, so I have a chance to bond with other African Americans.”

Seals said students will be learning about values and African American history.

“They are learning about legacy [what they want to leave behind] and skills on how to be successful,” he explained.

One of Seals’ former students agrees that the program is important.

“It influences people to come to school and [do] what they really like and not what the government expects,” said Anthony Coleman, a Media Academy junior who was in Seals’ “Males in Motions” class last year.

“I hope [the program] comes back for years to come,” said Coleman.

The class is funded by the Mitchel Kapor Foundation, Kaiser Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation, Open Society Foundation and Waste Management, according to Chatmon.

In response to some criticism that the class helps only boys who are part of one racial group, Media Academy Vice Principal Sarah Mazzotta said, “A lot of different races are in need, but there’s a larger achievement gap in African Americans.”