Back to School: The Promise of a Fresh Start

October 21, 2015
Byron-Scott---photo-credit-The-Daily-Sports-Herald

Photo credit: The Daily Sports Herald – https://flic.kr/p/pu9hqt

By Byron Scott

For high school students all over the country, the new school year brings with it a fresh start. The hopes of earning straight A’s, getting one step closer to college admissions and making new friends. As I look back at my own teenage years growing up in Inglewood, I vividly remember this feeling of excitement. My teammates and I at Morningside High School always started the year with the goal of a basketball championship set in our sights. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many young people, as the negative labels that follow them from prior school years make them virtually invisible in many school settings.

In Los Angeles County, there are thousands of students who are under the supervision of L.A. County Juvenile Probation that fit within this group of marginalized young people. These students have been trapped in a perpetual cycle that yields negative results. Each year they are not provided the necessary support and resources that would allow them to succeed academically and socially. Within Los Angeles County, Black youth are at an even higher disadvantage as they are disproportionately represented in this juvenile probation system, subject to harsher punishment in schools and, on average, among the lowest performing students. Thankfully, our country is beginning to take notice.

Initiatives such as President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) are now shining a spotlight on how this continued absence of support and resources have negatively impacted boys and men of color across the nation. In fact, the California Community Foundation (CCF) has an initiative that predates MBK and many other new efforts focused on improving the life outcomes for boys and men of color populations. CCF’s Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men (BLOOM) initiative aims to address the void of resources offered to Black youth in South Los Angeles who have been in contact with the juvenile justice system. Recent data indicates that 90% of Black men in California who do not graduate from high school will go to prison by the time they turn 35. This statistic alone is why CCF has placed an emphasis on high school completion for all of its BLOOM youth. By providing young people with various academic supports and strong mentoring, BLOOM has helped hundreds of young men redirect their lives and altered how they are perceived both in school and by their communities.

In BLOOM’s first three years, young men who are engaged in various BLOOM programs do not reoffend, attend school on a more frequent basis and many excel academically. Shayquan is a great example of BLOOM’s success. He has successfully graduated from high school, currently attends Mount San Antonia College in Walnut, California, and plans to transfer to Cal Poly Pomona University upon receiving his associate’s degree. Shayquan has gone from a young man defined by his juvenile record to a young man pursuing greatness. In June 2015, CCF was able to award scholarships to 21 BLOOM participants who graduated from high school and were accepted to, and enrolled in, college. The young men in this program continue to gain the exposure needed to ensure they are on a path towards greater success. In a very short period of time, BLOOM has enabled a disenfranchised population to become visible and provided opportunities for young men to look forward to the fresh start of a new school year.

Join me in helping to transform the futures of young Black men in Los Angeles County by supporting BLOOM. To learn more, please contact LaWayne Williams, manger of the BLOOM initiative at the California Community Foundation, at (213) 452-6253 or ldwilliams@calfund.org

Byron Scott is the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

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