MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A program in Minneapolis public schools is turning black male students into "kings."
The office of Black Male Student Achievement is on a mission to close the achievement gap in the city's schools. The man leading that effort is King Michael Walker. He has several reasons for calling the men and boys he works with kings. It's all part of his goal to empower his students so they can achieve great things -- and it's why he is this week's Excellent Educator.
In his three years heading the Black Male Student Achievement program, Walker says he has reached hundreds of students who he says are often left in the margins of educational systems.
"When we look at our academic success indicators you start talking about graduation rates, GPA, standardize testing. Our black males have been at the bottom of those things for many, many years and that is a need that we have known," he said.
Behind Oakland, California, Minneapolis is the second city in the country to offer this type of program. Students enroll in a daily class called B.L.A.C.K., which stands for Building Lives Acquiring Cultural Knowledge.
"It's about having information and knowledge and learning that's geared toward them. It's in a space that they can feel comfortable with delivering their message, speaking their truth and being valued in those spaces," Walker said.
In the class, the young men and boys are called kings.
"I want them to know there true history. That is where we came from," he said. "Sometimes our history that they share with us in the educational system, that starts in 1619. We have a richer history that started before that on the continent of Africa where we were kings and queens in that space."
Walker says it's also to replace negative narratives with positive ones.
"We want to put this positive, more powerful word out there to share who we are and what we are about and how we represent ourselves," he said.
For Walker, the goal is about helping the young men discover the kings they already are.
"It's about how do we awaken that greatness that is already inside of them," he said.
Walker is a product of Minneapolis Schools as a graduate of Roosevelt High School, but he calls himself a "Northsider." He describes himself as a non-traditional educator because he is extremely student-centered and wants their voices to be at the forefront.
The program has already seen successes. Walker says students in the B.L.A.C.K. class have increased their GPA and class attendance is up as well.
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