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Taking Responsibility

By Ifeolu Claytor

High School “Scholars” Take the Pipeline Into Their Own Hands

It all began with a few African American males who were achieving academically and tired of this making them the minority within their own race.

In 1990, those young men founded the Minority Achievement Committee Scholars (MAC) program at Shaker Heights High School, a mentorship program in which thriving 11th- and 12th- grade African American males encourage their younger peers to follow suit.

Today, I am one of these MAC Scholars leaders.

More than 20 years after the program’s founding, these Scholars—a group of educated and focused gentlemen—are amongst the most influential group in our 1,800 student high school, which is located in one of the country’s most historically diverse school districts.

They are visible on almost every sports team and extra-curricular activity, though this is not what makes them the most influential. What makes them influential is the fact that they have the power and opportunity to reach the school’s largest identifiable group of underperformers: African American males.

In Shaker Heights, we are targeting our fellow African American males. High dropout and incarceration rates and underperforming academic achievement is an unacceptable combination.

To counteract the disturbing trend of underachievement by Black males, our program reaches out to those boys who are underperforming academically and gives them something to aspire to.

Three types of students are invited to the MAC meetings: students who have not yet realized why it is important to do well in school; students who know that they have to do well and want to, but do not know how to seek help from their teachers, stay organized and take notes; and students who are already succeeding and can share their successes, motivations, methods.

As MAC Scholars leaders, we show the students not only the importance of academic achievement, but also the importance of respecting authority both in and out of the school building.

The theme of our meetings, year after year, is a focus on the choices we make.

In meetings with our “potential scholars” this year, we walked them through a comparison of two local stories.

The first was the tale of David Boone, a public school student in Cleveland who grew up surrounded by poverty, drugs and underachievement. He went from being homeless—abandoned by his parents—to a scholarship to Harvard, where he’s working to become an engineer. The other case was one of a local basketball star, Tony Farmer, who was fielding offers from college basketball teams across the country. That is, until he was seen on camera brutally assaulting his girlfriend in the lobby of her apartment building and ended up incarcerated.

Each of these gentlemen made a choice. One had nothing and gained the world. The other had the world at his feet and lost it all.

We also walk students through our school’s college resource site, which shows the number of Shaker students in the past decade who applied to each college, how many were admitted/denied and graphs them by GPA and test scores. Each year, we invite alumni scholars back to offer valuable advice from their collegiate and professional experiences.

The MAC Scholars program doesn’t address all of the policy and school discipline issues that have created the schools-to-prison pipeline, but instead focuses on personal responsibility.

Our goal is to open students’ eyes to their possibilities, showing them that the choice is theirs, and to provide them with the examples they so desperately need.

They need positive role models who give them positive reinforcement. They need to be taught that being a successful African American man is more than just rappers spitting a verse or athletes dribbling a ball.

Most of all, what the majority of our African American males need to stay in school and out of prison is to see their brothers doing the same.

 

Ifeolu Claytor is a senior at Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, OH and a leader in the school’s Minority Achievement Committee Scholars program.

  • Kim Tyler

    So proud of you IFE. This article is wonderful. Informative and reflective of your quest for academic excellence. Giving out positive and reinforcing information is what’s needed to not only enforce but redirect the attention of minorities to do and give their best academically! Keep up the good work. I look for great things to happen for you in the future. Love you, Auntie Kim

  • Rebecca

    What an exceptionally well written article about an outstanding program! Shaker Heights High School is really doing a wonderful job and I hope other high schools are following suit. Best of luck to this very promising young author.

  • andrea

    Incredibly inspiring. Kudos on the work you all do!

  • Tim Lanese

    I am so proud of you and to have the honor of knowing you…forever. You have always been an example of what you can do if you have the desire and discipline. You are A great role model for everyone in the system. I have seen the trend at Shaker and it has always been frustrating. I keep hearing about all the discussions, identification of the achievment gap and on and on…bout your group is actually doing something. This is not a color issue, but as you state in many cases a decision issue that the kids need to have the knowledge and confifdence to address, and not just go with the flow. You will be greatly missed next year, but looks like you have a good group to carry on…if you can every use an old alumn for anything for the group, just say the word…Good Luck Sir

  • Robert Rains

    What a wonderful story! Great job and thank you on behalf of all Shaker Heights High alums.

  • Karen G

    I am looking forward to my sons (hopefully) participating in this program when they start High School. Shaker is a wonderful community and this is one of the programs that is honestly addressing an issue that is often more easily ignored. Thank you for your leadership and your willingness to give back. You will be successful in life as you carry excellence in your spirit.

  • Janice & George Harris

    Ife,
    It is no surprise to us how you have succeeded! To be the positive light for so many, a smile always on your face!
    Leadership, spirit, enthusiasm and hard work are surely worth sharing with everyone at Shaker. Skills! We wish you the best as you move on…and you know George will always be available as your agent! Known you since Fernway years and proud to see you soar!

  • Annette

    Ifeolu has been outstanding his entire Shaker career, and we are all very proud of this amazing young man. This description of how MAC works in Shaker schools is one of the best I have seen, and I hope inspires other schools to launch similar programs. “Choices” are a theme for all of us, no matter our circumstances or age.

  • Beth Portner

    Awesome article Ife! MAC Scholars is a wonderful program reaching all the way down to Woodbury! The high school MAC scholars are a great influence to the younger generation behind them! So proud of you!! :0)

  • Darlene Garrison

    Ife, I am so proud of you!!!! As I was reading your fabulous article, it brought tears to my eyes. You are truly the definition of a MAC Scholar and I know I will be reading/hearing much more from you in the future. I have a son, Dylan, and I hope for him he turns out to be just like my little Ife. Congratulations on a job well done.

  • Peter

    I remember Ife as a Kindergartener – always with ideals and a commitment to a better world. Great essay Ife, keep up the good work!

  • Neil

    Well done Ife. Like Peter, Ive known you since Kindergarten at Fernway. I always knew you were destined for great things. Yet another reason to add to the ‘Why I love Shaker’ list.

  • Nancy Schachtel

    Ife–Great article! Congrats! I didn’t know MAC scholars was a Shaker thing. I assumed it was national. Just like SGORR, one of the outstanding programs in the Shaker Schools.
    It’s a shame that you are so shy, that we only see in print! LOL!!

  • Marla Robinson

    Ife,
    You are the perfect example of the wonderful, intelligent, compassionate, motivated students we have in this district. Your future is bright and there is no limit to what you can do. Remember to stay focused and continue to make the right choices along your path. You will hit potholes along the way, but you can handle them. Please know that the Shaker family is behind you all the way.

Last modified: March 15, 2013 at 1:27 am
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