Monday, July 12, 2010

District Wins Grant to Boost African-American Student Achievement

A new grant from Target Foundation will support San Diego Unified School District efforts to boost African-American student achievement by strengthening family involvement in schools.

The $50,000 grant will enable expansion of outreach to more schools and families, and provide ambitious programs -- such as taking district students and their families to visit college campuses.

“The goal is to show students and their families that college can be attainable, and for parents to see what they need to do to help their children attain that goal starting at a young age,’’ said Elneda Shannon, program manager of Parent Outreach and Engagement Department’s Project Ujima, which serves African-American families.

Project Ujima is named for the third principal of Kwanzaa, which means collective work and responsibility. The Target Foundation arts grant will also enable Project Ujima to take district students and families to Los Angeles to tour the California African American Museum of Art. Using the arts is a powerful way to connect students to learning, said Shannon, and it’s important for them to see the achievements of African Americans in culture.

The grant fits the goal of the year-old Project Ujima program to reaffirm African American cultural understandings and teachings that promote positive development and achievement. The program focuses on students in Title I schools, which educate a larger percentage of students in lower socio-economic levels.

“When we take students and families to see what is possible, it’s like a light goes on,” said Shannon. The program aims at improve academic performance and graduation rates among African American students, who account for more than 11 percent of the district’s 132,000 students.

Since 1946, Target has given 5 percent of its income to support and enrich the communities the retail company serves. Today that equals more than $3 million every week to support education, the arts, social services and volunteerism.

Project Ujima programs are free to parents and families, as are all programs offered by the Parent Outreach and Engagement Department, headquartered in
the Ballard Parent Center in Old Town. For more information, contact the center at (619) 293-4431.