Here's How An African-American Culture Class Aims To Keep Black Youth In School

An African-American culture class that has helped change the lives of youth at city schools in Roanoke, VA is now available to the public.

The organization Total Action for Progress (TAP) first introduced the class, African American Culture and Contemporary Issues (AACCI), in 2008 to prevent young Black men from dropping out of high school, according to The Roanoke Times.

TAP’s youth services and education manager Lateefah Trent told the newspaper that students typically drop out of school because they are not optimistic about the future. 

“They don’t feel like they’re going to really live past age of 21 or 25, or that they’re not going to amount anything, so ‘What’s the point?’” Trent said.

But, Trent says AACCI class teaches Black youth that their lives and the lives of others have value. “The culture has gone through so much of society saying, ‘You’re not worthy,’” she said. 

“You are worthy. You are important. Everybody has a purpose, and everybody has gifts. How do you want to utilize yours and contribute to your community to better your life and become the best you can be? That’s a lot of what the class offers.”

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About 25 students enrolled in the AACCI course in January 2019 at At William Fleming High School. Enrollment rose as word spread about the beneficial effects of discussions and lessons on Black male students. 

The current class has about 75 students enrolled. According to The Roanoke Times, there was such a high demand for the course that it was made available to both male and female students for the 2021–22 academic year.

When TAP was awarded a grant by the Roanoke Gun Violence Prevention Commission in May, it made the decision to use some of the money to expand the course selection to include community members and parents, ages 15 and older. On September 17, the new free public course began at the Roanoke Higher Education Center (RHEC).

“We’ve had several parents and people in the community say, ‘Hey, I heard about my child or grandchild in this class. This seems very interesting. Is there something like that for us to go to?’” Trent explained.“That’s how we came about with the community one that we’re having on Saturdays,” she added.

“The biggest thing that we love about this is that it’s allowing different ages, across all spectrums, to come together and learn about the African American culture and the history of it as a group, as a team, to build community awareness,” she added.

According to the TAP website, the new public class will cover topics like community building, leadership development and developing critical thinking techniques.

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