Support proactive programs that prevent community violence

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Ruth White, guest columnist

There is a lot of wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth about the increase in violence in our pristine community. Think tanks, committees, and renewed focus in both school and community, because what everyone says when faced with tragedy — “I didn’t think it would happen here!” — has happened.

Don’t get me wrong. These efforts are warranted. No doubt about that. But they fall into the category of reaction. My concern is about proaction — robust support of proactive programs could have warded off the tragedies that have us all on edge; programs that focus on children of color which struggle to gain and maintain traction in our community.

There are several in this category, including The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success. The Academy focuses on proactively guiding students toward productive citizenship by surrounding them with positive models of color, and teaching history and cultural information which provides a platform explaining why they should achieve and excel in school, what is available to outstanding students of color (including over $2 million in unclaimed scholarship money), and how to negotiate the rigors of excellence in school. The Academy recruits staff of color (who are themselves rooted in their culture and excellent in their academic disciplines), so that students can see what is possible, and travels with them to places where their culture is valued and where they can see it “in positive reflection”. Nearly everyone who has experienced the Academy, be they students, parents, staff, guest speakers, or donors, lauds our efforts, and sees it as the great, positive, productive program it is.

We all know that students who are exposed to successful models and who learn the history of our country that pertains to them, are more likely to seek success and less likely to engage in negative behaviors. The program is now 27 years old, and still, despite the contention that, “This should be a national program.” struggles for sustainable funding.

For the past 10 years, the Academy has held a fundraiser that honors and celebrates positive African American contributors to our community. These are people who walk among us and who by their living example demonstrate The Academy principles: Understanding the Importance of Cultural Knowledge, Educational and professional Advancement, A Balanced Family Life, Leadership, and A Generosity of Spirit. Past Honorees include Dr. Percy G. Harris, Karl Cassell, Tom Moore, and Stefanie Bowers. They will be joined Akwi Nji and Daniel Pledge-Johnson when this year’s awards are presented on Thursday.

There still is time to join us in celebrating these community leaders, and to support the proactive programs of The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success. For more information contact me at

• Longtime educator and equity advocate, Ruth White is the founder and Executive Director of The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success.

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