Teachers take action to save young black men

Christopher L. Small, academc coach at Nims Middle School, has developed a plan to aid students with behavioral issues.

Small, along with Larry Thompson who directs special projects for Leon County Schools, has created the Young Black Male Discovery Project.

Small started the program focusing on career goal-setting in November 2007 at Jefferson Elementary, where he worked alongside Nims Middle School Principal Kay Collins. With the transition from an elementary school to a middle school, Small had to come up with a different curriculum.

“This class is important to these students because it instills that even if you want to be a rap star you need to be able to read,” Collins said. “The class helps them to look into the careers they want to go in and informs that they still need to know basic math skills so they can invest wisely.”

Collins also stressed the importance for students to know their basics skills not just for school, but also for life. “This class is to help them understand why they need these skills,” she said. “Not just to pass the FCAT. The FCAT is one test, but your life is a complete test.”

The class has 20 students who were selected by teachers and the administrators because of their referrals for behavior issues.

“We are trying to give them a feel for different avenues to keep the students focused on doing something positive versus being on the street,” Small said. “I try to stay creative on how I present material, to let them know that if you have a plan in place and you’re persistent then you can be better than what you see on the street.”

The class is held during school hours and students are tested to ensure they are retaining the information. There is currently a waiting list of 15 students for the class.

The program takes students’ career interests and invites speakers who work in that field to explain the career requirements.

Speakers have included Devurn Glenn, who was the first assistant principal at Nims and Esrone McDaniels, who was in charge of the Frenchtown Revitalization Community Project in Tallahassee. Small, a Texas native, is currently attending Florida State University to earn a doctorate in educational leadership and administration. He said he relates to the students. Small said he flunked a grade, was enrolled in Exceptional Student Education classes and was raised by a single parent. He said he wants the students to know they can be achievers too. “There is no reason for you to say, ‘Well this is what mom did, this is what dad did and this is what I should do’,” Small said. “The ability to be able to see these young guys progress as young black men, go against what society says these young guys should be, is my goal for them.” Nims student Detarious Jackson has big dreams of becoming an actor and Brian Green, also from Nims, is determined to be a professional athlete. Both young men are on the basketball team and are actively recruiting other people into the program. The Young Black Male Discovery Project is looking for mentors and speakers. If interested please contact Small at 488-5960.