Dr. Shaunte Knox and students enjoy a photo-op while visiting the bookstore at Morehouse College in Atlanta. (Courtesy photo)

The 2021-2022 school year was an outstanding year for the Department of Black Student Achievement at Compton Unified School District.  They are approaching the upcoming school year with a great sense of accomplishment, pride and enthusiasm.   

The department is led by Dr. Shaunte Knox, who is steadfast in her vision and her goals for the program.  The Compton Unified School Districts Department of Black Student Achievement was formed in 2021 to address the achievement gap faced by Black students in terms of test scores and academic achievement in comparison to other racial and ethnic groups.    

This past school year, Dr. Knox, who is a Los Angeles native and an alumna of Dorsey High School, implemented a strategy which focused on targeted intervention, progress monitoring, mentorship, enrichment, socio-emotional support, parent involvement and culturally and linguistically responsive professional development.  

Compton students receive information while touring Morris Brown College in Atlanta, GA. (Courtesy photo)

In order to change the academic trajectory of our Black students we must engage our teachers, our parents, our students and our community.  Then and only then we can positively impact Black student achievement,” said Dr. Knox. 

 The highlight of the school year was the Department’s first Historically Black College and Universities Tour, which took place during the week of Spring Break.  All expenses were paid for the students, so there was no charge to their families.   Thirty-one students were given the opportunity to explore several outstanding HBCUs.   

The students visited Alabama A&M University, Albany State University, Stillman College, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Tuskegee University, Morris Brown College, Clark Atlanta University, and Georgia State University.  Many students received on the spot acceptances to these fine institutions of higher education.   

Compton Students visit the MLK memorial in Atlanta. (Courtesy photo)

The Compton Unified Superintendents and board members gifted the students with Beats Headphones, which allowed them to access the movies being played on their plane rides.  While in Atlanta, the students visited the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, the MLK Memorial Center, as well as the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. 

“This trip provided great exposure for our students who would likely have never had the experience to visit HBCU’s and learn how intricately they are a part of them.  It was powerful for students to recognize and articulate that this was a place where they felt they belonged in higher education,” said Dr. Knox.    

Mark Estelle, a graduating senior from Dominguez High School in Compton reflected, “The HBCU tour was a great experience.  I feel like you will see things that you wouldn’t think would be at an HBCU, from a first person’s point of view.  It’s a lot of culture and it’s great.”   

Bernard Williams, a junior at Compton Early College Academy stated, “Before this, I hadn’t seen any colleges and for a kid like me who hasn’t ever been out of his state like that, I feel like it was a great opportunity to really realize how much education is important to your life and I appreciate everybody who sponsored the trip.” 

From left are Edrian Walker and Dr. Shaunte Knox. (Courtesy photo)

The students completed reflective surveys, which indicated that they all enjoyed the trip and that 90 percent of them are considering attending an HBCU.  The surveys also indicated that they felt that this trip was important for all students to attend.   

Moving forward, Dr. Knox plans to continue to build on the positive momentum and support that the program has garnered in its first year.  She plans to expand her partnerships with mentoring organizations such as the 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, and other academic enrichment organizations.   

The goal is to strengthen the pipeline to higher education and expand students overall access to opportunities, enrichment and career professionals to support and guide their overall academic, social and emotional learning.