Black and Latino Boys Are Being Successful at School…And That Is Cause for Conversation

UCLA student Martin Capuchino, 19, participated in the school’s new report about successful black and Latino teenage boys in L.A. and how they achieve success. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

While Chukwuagoziem Uzoegwu was growing up, his mother often would throw what he and his brothers called “educational tantrums.”

On those weekends or on random days in the long stretch of summer vacation, the Uzoegwu boys would be barred from TV “from sun up to sunset,” he said.

“Leisure time was spent reading. Leisure time was spent writing,” said Uzoegwu, now 17 and a senior at King Drew Medical Magnet High School of Medicine and Science.

Uzoegwu attributes his upbringing with his success as a student. He has a GPA above 4.0, is taking six Advanced Placement classes and wants to attend Stanford University.

He was one of 201 L.A. County students interviewed for a new UCLA report on the experiences of successful black and Latino teenage boys in Los Angeles.

The researchers asked faculty at six high schools to identify boys in grades 10 through 12 who either excelled academically, held leadership roles in extracurricular activities or showed resilience in their home lives. They interviewed those boys and asked them how they defined success, and what they felt had contributed to theirs.

Black and Latino students in California have lower test scores and higher rates of suspension than their white and Asian peers. Studies show that teachers treat black students more harshly than white ones as early as preschool, and some have lower academic expectations for black students.

Tyrone Howard, a UCLA education professor and director of the school’s Black Male Institute, previously had researched achievement gaps. He started taking a close look at successful black and Latino teens about three years ago, as news of police shooting and killing young black men began to garner national attention.

“So much of what I found is that African American males were … seen as being defiant, disruptive, difficult to deal with,” Howard said. “We see young black and brown men by and large as being threats. … I don’t think we humanize them enough.”

The new report highlights how high expectations at home, safe places such as community organizations and sports programs, and strong mentors at school motivate students who thrive.

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Source: LA Times | Sonali Kohli