Teaching “Young, Gifted & Black” in the classroom

Young, Gifted & Black Series

By Taki S. Raton

A student at the Parklawn YMCA diligently works on his project that partially focused on the ‘Young, Gifted & Black Series’ featured in The Milwaukee Courier. (Photo by Robert A. Bell)

A team of students at Springfield College, 744 North 4th Street, designed an in-depth lesson using a writing included in the Milwaukee Courier Newspaper’s series “Young, Gifted & Black”. As part of their undergraduate core course offering, “Group Project in Community Development and Change,” Leatha King, Kevin Clements, Linda Meadors and Rhonda Funches facilitated four sessions for 16 area youth, ages 11 to 17. Classes were held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Parklawn YMCA, 4340 North 46th Street, over four consecutive Wednesdays from August 22 through September 19.

Springfield students spanning three respective semesters in Group Project 1, 2, and 3 work together in groups of two to five members to identify a problem in a given community and prepare an action plan to address it. Under the instructional guidance of Group Project professor Karen Dotson, students are assigned the opportunity to be directly involved in neighborhood initiatives designed to demonstrate the impact on a community’s social dynamic and to apply methodological skills taught as part of required curriculum content.

Sensitized to challenges affecting today’s urban teens to include poor school performance, low Black male graduation rates, increasing drop out numbers and growing incarceration percentages, an eight-packet session format was structured to strengthen self-esteem, cultivate selfconfidence and inspire a vision of success through the sharing of exemplary African American models. Technical assistance was provided by this writer.

Themed “Breaking the Cycle- Empowering Our Youth,” lesson modules included Self-Confidence and Goal Setting; Identifying and Cultivating Personal Talents, Skills and Interest; Setting Sights on College, and Charting Paths to Success.

Also included in this packet was a five-page, thirty-three question review lesson on 19 year-old Gold Medalist Anthony Davis who was selected as a U.S. “Dream Team” member straight out of college. He would become the youngest U.S. basketball gold medalist in history.

The U.S. men’s team won the gold medal in London with a 107-100 victory over Spain on Sun., Aug. 12, 2012 sealed at the end by a Davis rebound. Our young medalist finished the Olympics with averages of 3.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in seven games played.

His story appeared in the Sat., Aug. 25, 2012 edition of the “Young, Gifted & Black” Courier series, copies of which were distributed to the “Breaking the Cycle” students assembled on Wed., Aug. 29.

A team of students at Springfield College, designed an in-depth lesson using a writing included in the Milwaukee Courier Newspaper’s series “Young, Gifted & Black”. As part of their undergraduate core course offering, “Group Project in Community Development and Change,” Leatha King, Kevin Clements, Linda Meadors and Rhonda Funches facilitated four sessions for 16 area youth, ages 11 to 17.

The class was asked to read the Davis story, take notes on key points, and be prepared to participate in an open interactive discussion on what they learned from the article. Titled “Celebrating the Achievements of Anthony Davis,” the reading review handout was then given to each student. Noted questions explored such details as the age of Davis; the number of players selected to the U.S. “Dream Team” straight out of college since 1992; when was Davis given the opportunity to play in the game; the previous team on which Davis played prior to London; the position he played at the University of Kentucky; his height and outstretched wingspan; a list of his record setting accomplishments and awards; the two national magazines featuring him on their cover, and the reaction of Davis being selected for the Olympic team.

In addition to the Davis handout, an eleven-person Black Olympic Gold Name Puzzle was prepared for the class to introduce the students to other African Americans who gold medaled at the London games.

Probing through a one page matrix of 286 letters, the young people were searching for such renowned figures as Jordan Ernest Burroughs who defeated Iran’s Sadegh Sareed in wrestling, claiming the United States’ first gold medal in wrestling as the London Olympics; team member Christian Taylor who won gold in the triple jump; the first American woman to take home the boxing gold as well as the second-youngest fighter ever to win Olympic honors in boxing, Clarissa Shields; Arles Merritt who took gold in the 110 meter hurdles; Allyson Felix a gold winner in the 200 meter race, and Brittney Reese who won the 2012 long jumper breaking the American record as well as the World Indoor Championship record.

A handout packet was provided with pictures of all of the Olympians with a brief bio of their past and current achievements. Rounding off the name puzzle listing are Anthony Davis, 400m runner Sanya Richards Ross, gymnastics double gold medalists Gabrielle Douglas, and tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams.

“I learned that you must work very hard to get ahead,” says student Perrion Bohannon on his Personal Thought Reflections handout documenting Teaching “Young, Gifted & Black” what the students learned as a result of the day’s lesson. To the question of “How has this learning experience today influenced or inspired the way in which you may think about your personal life and goals,” he adds, “It made me realize the importance of staying in school and work on all my basic skills in order to be successful.”

Victorion Brooks shared on his reflection sheet that “I learned that I can become anything that I want if I set my mind to it,” and that one of his personal visions is to “give back to my community once I have reached my career goal.”

“We are very pleased with the work that our team has done and the feedback that we are receiving from our students,” King said. “In our studies, we have become more acutely aware of the desirable outcomes resulting from methodology which shares positive and successful role models with our youth. It was our goal in Group Project to research, construct and implement such a model.”