|Christine Sabathia/Sentinel photo
Kirk Kirkwood (center) is the director of the Black Male Academy, a College Bound program that addresses the need of academic success and brotherhood among African American male students. He is shown assisting two students with their homework during a tutorial session.
“We wanted to create a Black male educational network. [Initially] the goal of the program was to coordinate a partnership between the fathers in College Bound and the Black male [students] enrolled in College Bound,” says Kirk Kirkwood, who is the director of a program structured specifically for African American male students. “[But] when we looked through the roster, we found that a lot of our students were on the border of being on academic probation – 2.5 and below. What we wanted to do was intervene. So, we started the Black Male Academy.”
The Black Male Academy is a program intended to revive and guide the academic progress and scholarship of underperforming African American male students in elementary, middle and high school whose entering grade point average is 2.5 or under. It is under the umbrella of College Bound, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving under-represented and minority students and families in the greater Los Angeles area with college admissions.
In 2003 College Bound founder, president and CEO Johnnie Savoy came together with Kirkwood, who is a graduate of College Bound turned (math specialist) tutor, to design the program that would become the Black Male Academy. It began with ten College Bound students who were on the verge of academic probation and has since opened up to nearly 100 participants who need and/or want to be in the individualized setting the program offers.
Kirkwood explains, “We opened it up because some students had improved and their parents wanted them to remain in the program. Initially we said 2.5 and below, but some students had a need to stay in this place and environment to learn because they were able to focus and had a tutor they related to. The environment was peaceful.”
Students of College Bound’s Black Male Academy meet every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm. They receive individualized attention with a tutor-to-student ratio of one-to-three, and take advantage of tutorial services that include homework assistance, test preparation and lessons on organization and study skills after being tested to determine specific learning abilities (how information is processed, organized, retained, etc).
But it’s not all study, study, study, says Kirkwood.
At the start of each session, Kirkwood will open with words of encouragement that will set the tone for the day, or one of the tutors will share an experience he’s had as a Black male.
“What it does is awakens the consciousness of these brothers,” says Kirkwood. “It sheds light on certain situations that are happening in the classroom that they could sense but couldn’t really process what was going on. …We talk about things to help them focus and thrive in an environment that is really resistant to their very being.”
The students also engage in extra-curricular activities, such as a father-son tee-off and a visit to a convalescent home during the Christmas season.
“In a sense, the Black Male Academy has become a ministry,” says Kirkwood. “It’s something that myself and all the tutors see as a responsibility because it’s so needed.”
For further information about College Bound’s Black Male Academy, call (562) 860-2127 or visit www.collegeboundca.org.