BY JAMES HARPER
When Turie T. Small Elementary School students arrived at school on Monday, they were welcomed by a large contingent of Black males.
The 100 or so new faces the children saw at their school were part of the Million Father March, which has grown out of recognition of the power of male involvement in the education of all students.
Bethune-Cookman University President Dr. Edison Jackson was among the group of 100 Black men, which included B-CU students, local Black leaders, and fraternity brothers, as well as elected city and county officials.
The gathering took place about 7 a.m. on Monday at Turie T. Small, an elementary school attended primarily by Black students.
“Now more than ever before, Bethune-Cookman will step forward and assume the leadership role that is inherent in continuing the mission, work, and legacy of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune,” Jackson said.
A press release from the university stated that “Bethune-Cookman is leading the charge to post men near the front doors at schools with sizable Black student populations to create an honor guard of strong, positive men who support all children at that school.”
“The Million Father March is an opportunity for all men to show their commitment to the educational lives of their children on the first day of school and throughout the school year,” the statement continued.
The National Fatherhood Initiative reports that when men are regularly and substantially involved in the education and social development of children, those children have higher standardized test scores, higher grade point averages, higher attendance rates and higher high-school graduation rates.
Additionally, those children have lower rates of suspension, expulsion, and arrest, as well as fewer incidents of violent behavior, and they are less likely to use drugs, alcohol or engage in premature sex.
‘We will not sit idly by’
The Million Father March, started by the Black Star Project, marks the beginning of a yearlong educational, social, financial, emotional and spiritual commitment by men to children. The Black Star Project is a national program committed to improving the quality of life in Black and Latino communities by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap.
“Our children must see the university taking an active role in their academic, cultural, and spiritual lives. We will not sit idly by. We stand with each child, not just on the first day of school but throughout the 2013-2014 academic year and beyond,’’ Jackson stated.
“I am excited about our new K-12 Initiatives and the willing heads, hearts and hands of our administrators, faculty, staff, and students. The university is committed to making its considerable talents and resources available to children throughout Daytona Beach and Volusia County.’’
Mentoring program in works
Al Bouie, B-CU’s assistant vice president for the university’s K-12 Initiatives, called it “a great start for the year for the students and men who participated.’’
B-CU also will use this event to begin identifying male participants for a K-12 mentoring/tutoring program being developed through the initiative.
The students at Turie T. Small were among 55,149 participating in first-day enrollment for Volusia County Schools, confirmed spokesman Nancy Wait, who also noted enrollment is expected to peak to over 60,000 by Labor Day.
Call 773-285-9600 for more information about the Million Father March and how to become involved.