Category Archives: College Bound Students

Talk to Your Sons About The L.A.Clippers

It has been front page news for a few days now: L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling allegedly made some outrageously offensive racist comments about Black people to his Black and Hispanic girlfriend. Talk to your sons about this situation, and ask them what they would do if they played for or were the coach of the L.A. Clippers.

The team decided to play yesterday’s game, and staging a silent protest during warm-ups, and they are playing again on Monday night. Would your son have decided to play the game? Talk about the issues that probably came up during a team discussion: whether they should forfeit the playoff game that they’d been working all season to get to play in, or whether they should continue to play for an owner who appears to have made blatantly racist comments. Talk about all the competing pressures on the team: the instinct to walk away from the game, likely supported by outraged family and friends, versus the urge to prove to themselves that they have the ability to win, coupled with the potential economic consequences of refusing to play, and how much does that matter under these circumstances?

Certainly you have had may versions of these conversations with friends and co-workers over the past few days, conversations which will continue as the playoff games continue and the NBA Commissioner attempts to authenticate the recording of these comments and determine the league’s response. But take the time to talk with your sons about this situation, and keep talking with them about it as events unfold. More importantly, keep listening to their thoughts about these events. Ask them what they would do going forward if they were a Clippers player, if they were the NBA Commissioner. Keep talking, and keep listening.

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 8-12, College Bound Students, Parents, Saving Our Sons, Sports

Good News on the College Admissions Front

For the fifth year in a row, all 240 of Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies seniors have been accepted into over 200 four year colleges and universities. The seniors, all African American young men, celebrated their success at a ceremony where they exchanged the red ties of their daily uniform for the red and gold striped ties signaling their impressive accomplishments. Here they are celebrating:

041014-National-Urban-Prep-Receives-100-Percent-College-Acceptance-5-Years-In-a-Row

Congrats to the seniors of Urban Prep! You can read a bit more about them here. Check out our previous posts “And Now For Some Good News From Chicago”s Urban Prep” (April 12, 2012) and More Good News from Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies” (April 1, 2013) to learn more about how well this school has been doing.

In other college admissions news, Harvard University has just accepted the highest percentage of black students ever for the class of 2018, which will start in the fall. Almost 12 percent of the total applicants who were offered admission next fall are black. You can read more about it here.

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Filed under Academics, Admissions, College Bound Students

Young Brothers Raking in the College Acceptances

Time for some good and inspirational news: Three young African American men are making the news for their college acceptances. Chad Thomas, a senior at Booker T. Washington Senior High in Miami, has received 150 scholarship offers for his football skills and his abilities as a nine-instrument musician. He has decided to attend the University of Miami, and will play football and study at the music conservatory there. You can read more about him here. 150 Scholarship offers! Good for him, not only for the academic, musical and athletic skills that got him to this point, but for the fortitude to apply for 150 scholarship offerings. Hope he did a lot of them online!

Avery Coffey, a senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C. with a 4.3 G.P.A., was accepted at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania, each of the five Ivy League universities to which he applied. Coffey grew up in a single-parent household in D.C.’s Ward 8, one of the poorest areas in the city. His high school, which boasts that 100 percent of its graduates are accepted into post-secondary institutions, has very strict rules including a school wide ban on cellphones in the building, and a prohibition on visiting your locker during the day (to discourage hanging out in the halls). He plans to major in Finance, and at this point is leaning towards Harvard or UPenn. He advises younger students, “You can go anywhere you want to, pursue any career that you want to, and you shouldn’t let anybody hinder you from trying to reach your goals.” Read more about him here.

Last but certainly not least is young Kwasi Enin, from William Floyd High School in Shirley, NY, who was accepted to all 8 Ivy League schools. Not only did he get great grades, but he is also an athlete (a shot putter), a singer and plays viola for the school orchestra. He plans to ultimately study medicine, and is awaiting financial aid packages from all of the schools before making a decision. His Ghanian father’s comments speak volumes about the power of positive parenting: “We are very proud of him. He’s an amazing kid. He’s very humble. He’s been trained to be a high achiever right from when he was a kid. We have been encouraging him to be an all-around student. So far, he has proved himself.” More of Kwasi’s story can be found here.

Congrats to all of these talented and fortunate young men! Great to see their successes and we wish them much luck in the future.

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Filed under Ages 16-18, College Bound Students

The New SAT: What to Expect

By now many of you who are focused on high school education have heard that there will be changes in the SAT beginning with the May 2016 test. This will affect ninth graders and below, so those of us with middle schoolers and high school freshmen need to pay special attention. So here’s what the new SAT will look like:

Essay is Optional. The essay, now required, will become optional for all students. Students who choose to take it will get 50 minutes (versus the 25 all students get now) to analyze evidence and “explain how an author builds an argument to persuade an audience” (as explained by the College Board). Currently students are asked in their essays to make an argument which draws on their background and experience rather than any evidence presented.

More Practical Vocabulary. The vocabulary will be focused on words more widely used in college and careers, rather than the fairly obscure words currently used.

Back to 1600 Point Scoring. There will be a separate score for the essay. A bonus for parents who waited to have children–you’ll never have to adjust to that infernal 2400 scale scoring!

A “No Calculator Section” Added to Math. There will be a math section in which calculators will not be allowed. The College Board believes that this will allow a better assessment of students’ math understanding, fluency and technique. So get out those flashcards and make sure your young’un knows his arithmetic, as it will come in handy.

Expanded Academic Disciplines. The new SAT will expand the academic disciplines of source materials to include history and science. The current SAT doesn’t require knowledge of either of these subjects.

No Penalty for Guessing. In the current SAT students lose 1/4 point for the wrong answer and lose no points for not answering the question. The New SAT won’t deduct for the wrong answer. This new plan has the added benefit of reducing the chance that students lose their places on the answer sheet (which can happen when you start skipping questions).

Includes Passages from “Founding Documents or Great Global Conversations”. Each exam will include a passage from a “Founding Document” like the Declaration of Independence, or from the “Great Global Conversation” they inspire, like the Gettysburg Address or the “I Have a Dream” speech.

Paper and Digital Versions of the SAT will be Offered.

In addition to the changes in the test, The College Board has announced several initiatives designed to level the playing field of the college application process. Their “Access to Opportunity” (A2O) initiative includes an “All-In” Campaign, which aims to ensure that students of color take AP courses in high school (The College Board also administers the AP exams), “Apply to 4 or More”, which gives deserving students four college application fee waivers; and “Realize Your College Potential”, which provides customized college information packets and fee waivers to high achieving low-income seniors (in the top 10- 15% of their class based on PSAT/SAT scores and in the bottom 33% of the national income distribution based on census information). As we have noted in a previous GCP post, outreach to the high achieving low-income students has been demonstrated to greatly increase the chances that these talented students will be able to go to great schools. See “Expanding College Opportunities”, October 16, 2013.

In an effort to make high quality test preparation available to students who cannot afford the expensive private test prep services, The College Board has partnered with Khan Academy, the free online tutoring service, to provide free test prep programs and resources. Currently Khan Academy has hundreds of questions from unreleased SATs and 200+ videos with step-by-step solutions online. The College Board has pledged to work closely with Khan Academy in order to enable them to provide test preparation for the redesigned SAT. For more information about the test changes and these initiatives, see the articles in the Washington Post here and the New York Times here.

Why redesign now? The SAT has been losing ground to the ACT in recent years, as students have demonstrated a preference for the more subject matter based and less esoteric ACT. With these changes the SAT hopes to regain lost ground. (Notwithstanding all this talk about creating tests that more closely track the high school experience, this is, after all, a business trying to make money.) With that said, the initiatives to include lower income students are to be loudly applauded, and we should all make sure word gets out about what is being done now (through Khan Academy) and in the future to ensure more students can be college bound.

Are these changes good or bad? The changes seem to create a test that should be easier to study for, and one which should allow students to demonstrate more of what they have learned in school on the test. (My college aged children thought the elimination of the required essay was way overdue.) Time will tell as to whether students find the test easier or harder. Parents of high school freshmen and younger students will need to be aware of the changes in the test preparation for this new test. GCP will stay focused on this.

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Filed under Ages 16-18, College Bound Students, Parents

Champions, Yes, but Graduates? Maybe Not: Black College Players and the 2014 Bowl Games

Happy New Year! In this our third year of operation, we are going to mix it up a bit. In addition to posting longer one subject articles chock full of info, GCP will be doing quick posts of interesting bits–news items, parenting things to think about, etc.–on a more regular basis. The goal is to post more regularly, and post more info. So stay tuned.

Black Male Student Athletes and the 2014 Bowl Championship Series: Just ran across this really interesting piece (thanks to GCP Dad Roy Johnson) in which Shaun Harper of UPenn’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education examines the graduation rates for the black college football players in the recent bowl championship series. Hate to bum out all of you guys celebrating FSU’s impressive win last night, but the school has a pretty dismal graduation rate for its Black football players. You can find the report here. Most of these college players don’t make the NFL, and leaving college after four or five years with no degree really limits their options. It is a travesty that more attention is not paid to this issue, and kudos to Harper and his Center for focusing on this in a timely fashion. With all the crazy money these schools make on these bowl games, why don’t they just give these guys a free pass to stay in school as long as it takes them to graduate?

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Tell Your Sons and Daughters: What To Do If You Are Stopped by the Police

As a follow-up to the recent GCP post about the young Black man who was arrested at Barney’s department store(“Tell Your Sons About Trayon Christian”, October 31,2013), here is, courtesy of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s website, a list of instructions of what to do (and what not to do) if you are stopped by the police for any reason:

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE STOPPED BY THE POLICE

Stay calm and in control of your words, body language and emotions.

Don’t get into an argument with the police.

Never bad-mouth a police officer.

Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you.

Keep your hands where the police can see them.

Don’t run.

Don’t touch any police officer.

Don’t resist even if you believe you are innocent.

If you complain at the scene, or tell the police they’re wrong, do so in a non-confrontational way that will not intensify the scene.

Do not make any statements regarding the incident.

If you are arrested, ask for a lawyer immediately.

Remember officers’ badge numbers, patrol car numbers and physical descriptions.

Write down everything you remember ASAP.

Try to find witnesses and their names and phone numbers.

If you are injured, take photos of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you get medical attention first. Ask for copies of your medical treatment files.


Good information for us all to remember and especially good for our teenaged and young adult children to have as they travel on their own. This information is a subset of a longer discussion on the NYCLU’s website found here, which includes information on what to do if you have a police encounter, are stopped, questioned and frisked, stopped in your car, if police come to your home, or if you are arrested. As the website notes, “We all recognize the need for effective law enforcement, but we should also understand our own rights and responsibilities — especially in our interactions with the police.”

Thanks to GCP Paris correspondent Albert Pettus for directing us to this website.

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, College Bound Students, Parents, Resources, Saving Our Sons

Expanding College Opportunities

Yesterday’s post focused on talking to babies; today we are talking about what happens when these babies grow up into young adults: college opportunities. African American economist Carolyn Hoxby, a Stanford economist in residency at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, is focused on helping students expand their opportunities to attend college. She recently presented her research at a “master class” at the NBC News Education Nation 2013 summit.

Hoxby has spent years studying why lower-income students with stellar grades and high entrance exam scores — about 35,000 nationwide each year, by her estimate — weren’t even applying to top colleges. These students were applying and getting into colleges, but often they were community colleges which did not offer the same range of academic options as the more selective ones. She found that bright students who lived far from elite universities or were not attending schools popular with college recruiters were less likely to be discovered by these universities. Moreover, these students were typically misinformed about the quality and affordability of the more selective colleges.

Hoxby’s research revealed that many students simply did not know that opportunities existed for them to apply to and attend these more selective schools. She determined that simple low-cost steps can be taken which can substantially increase the number of disadvantaged students who apply to and graduate from top colleges. Her “Expanding College Opportunities” project conducts an “information intervention”, sending customized packets of materials to high achievers from low-income families. These packets do not recommend any specific colleges, but contain step-by-step guides to applying to schools which include fee waivers for tests and application fees.

After its initial distribution of the Expanding College Opportunity Guides, Hoxby compared the group of high-achieving, low-income students who opened the guides with similar students who didn’t receive one. They found the guide recipients were 55.8 percent more likely to apply to a “peer,” or higher-ranked, school, 77.5 percent more likely to be admitted to a peer school, 46.3 percent more likely to enroll in one, and the guide recipients were admitted to 30.8 percent more colleges. These results convinced the College Board (which administers the SAT) to send the packet to students in the class of 2014 who scored above the 90th percentile and were likely to come from lower-income homes.

Simply stated, information is key to helping high-achieving low-income students understand and take advantage of their educational opportunities. Kudos to Hoxby and her team for this focus and their findings.

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Class of 2013: Social Consciousness and Global Perspective

Yesterday’s post featured Dr. Robert M. Franklin’s powerful commencement speech which encouraged graduates of an all male high school to be “renaissance men”. As noted yesterday, Franklin told the boys about the “five wells” of renaissance men: well-read, well-spoken, well-traveled, well-dressed, and well-balanced. Today GCP concludes its coverage of this inspirational speech.

Dr. Franklin encouraged the high school graduates to strive to be “renaissance men with social consciousness and global perspective”. He explained:

“[I]t’s not simply functioning as a renaissance man that is important or that matters most. You must also have a social conscience. Part of the beauty of Martin Luther King’s life, and Paul Robeson, and Dorothy Day and so many we regard as renaissance leaders, is that they voluntarily identified with the suffering, the challenges, the confusion, the ignorance and the vulnerability of the masses and they did their best to transform their condition. So, bring your sense of moral purpose, a sense of what is good and right and noble to every enterprise that you join. Even in the college dormitory you will occupy. Remember that you are renaissance men with a social conscience. Do not be pressured to conform to do things that you know are wrong.” Franklin cited Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” as a classic must-read treatise which provides guidance on developing a social consciousness. He noted: “[a] couple of memorable lines from his Letter from Birmingham Jail are “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, but another line that is alluded to in the letter but then elaborated in another speech said the following, “The saving of our world from pending doom will come not from the actions of a conforming majority but from the creative maladjustment of a transformed minority. This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists.”

In order to be a valuable part of that dedicated circle, Franklin posited, one must develop and maintain a global perspective. To help the boys understand just how interdependent the world’s people are, and how important it is to adapt a world view, he cited a study found on the internet called “The Village of 100”, which imagined the world population shrinking to just 100 people with all current demographic ratios remaining constant. This, says Franklin, is what this study shows that our Village of 100 would look like:

“There would be
60 Asians,
12 Europeans,
16 from the Western Hemisphere (that is 9 from Latin America and Caribbean; 5 from North America),
13 Africans.
51 would be female, 48 would be male;
73 would be non-white, 27 white;
67 would non-Christians, 33 Christians,
92 heterosexual, 8 homosexual,
5 would possess 23% of the entire world’s wealth and all 5 would be from the United States;
33 would live in sub-standard housing,
18 would be unable to read,
40 would be malnourished,
1 would be near death, 1 would be near birth; 2, yes only 2, would have a college education, and 96 would not be able to read this message, because only 4 would have a computer.

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for compassion and understanding becomes compelling and clear.”

Renaissance men with social consciousness and global perspective. Something for our boys to aim for.

Dr. Franklin is currently on sabbatical leave from Morehouse and is spending 2013 conducting comparative research about what contributes to the flourishing of boys and young men of color around the world. He plans to include visits to Brazil, India, Europe, South Africa and New Zealand in this study. GCP looks forward to hearing and reporting on his progress.

* * * * * *

Couldn’t post today without mentioning the recent Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act. While we are heartened to see that the Court endorsed the benefits of student-body diversity in colleges and universities and allowed the continued use of race-conscious admissions policies in yesterday’s Fisher v. University of Texas decision, we are deeply disappointed with the Court’s decision to strike down a critical part of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.

For excellent analysis of these opinions and critical next steps, please go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund website, found here.

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Class of 2013: The “Five Wells” of Renaissance Men

As June comes to a close, GCP congratulates all of the young men who are in the graduating class of 2013. Whether they are graduating from elementary, junior high, lower, middle, high school or college, these boys have worked hard and deserve praise for this important accomplishment. These transitions are important steps in their lives and should be heralded. We celebrate the hard work, focus, persistence and brain power that got them through. Congrats to their parents as well, for they have worked hard behind the scenes (and sometimes front and center on whatever stage necessary) to help their sons reach this goal.

I have a particular interest in the Class of 2013, as I have two sons in it, one having graduated from eighth grade, the other having graduated from high school. I have spent more time than usual the past few weeks beaming with pride at my sons. One is heading to high school where new academic and life challenges await, and the other is moving on to the next important chapter of life in college.

At my son’s high school graduation we were treated to a commencement speech from Dr. Robert M. Franklin, President Emeritus of Morehouse College. My son attended an all boys school from grades K-12, and it was particularly interesting to hear from a speaker who graduated from and then went on to run this all male historically Black college. Dr. Franklin had a great message for the young men in the Class of 2013: he challenged them to be “renaissance men with social conscience and global perspective.” A powerful prescription for success.

Dr. Franklin defined a renaissance man as “one who is widely, broadly educated”. He specified five qualities, or what he called “the five wells” which make up the renaissance man:

Well-Read: “Like Leonardo DaVinci, John F. Kennedy, Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Renaissance man is first well-read”, said Dr. Franklin. He encouraged the boys to line their shelves with books. “Finance next to philosophy, poetry alongside physics…I urge you to read but read widely.”

Well-Spoken: “Have something to say and say it well…When you stand as public speakers remember the three B’s__be good, be brief and be seated”.

Well-Traveled: “Mark Twain suggested that travel is fatal to prejudice. But I love the Ghanian proverb, “never declare that your mother’s stew is the best in the world, if you have never left your village.” Dr. Franklin suggested that a good place to begin traveling would be the “BRIC nations” of Brazil, Russia, India and China, and added South Africa and Singapore as nations who are also having a global impact.

Well-Dressed: Dr. Franklin acknowledged that this one could be controversial, but that some parents would appreciate it: “Remember that long before people hear the quality of your intellect and your conversation, they will see you approaching from a distance. There is a time and place for every cultural costume, and so be appropriate.”

Well-Balanced: “Well-balanced, to possess a healthy mind in a healthy body, governed by healthy values. Avoid getting stuck in a daily routine rut. Work, but also play. Exercise, but also rest. Explore the world, but also know how to stay home and be content. Worship, listen, and learn from traditions that differ from yours.”

Following the five wells, says Dr. Franklin is the mark of the Renaissance man.

These five wells have stayed in my head since graduation day. Great advice from which all of our sons can benefit. (And our daughters too: we want to raise renaissance women as well.) Tomorrow, Dr. Franklin’s thoughts on how renaissance men find their “social conscience and global perspective”.

A thousand thanks to Dr. Robert M. Franklin for writing and delivering a terrific speech and providing GCP with a copy!

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Filed under Academics, College Bound Students

Tell Your Sons: Avoiding the Big Stupid Mistakes

Let me start by stating the obvious: the sexual assault of the inebriated young woman in Steubenville, Ohio by two high school athletes was a heinous act for which punishment is just and proper. This is a tragic case in which everybody lost. A young woman will be haunted by the sexual assault itself, by the knowledge that online images of the assault will be floating around the town and the world forever, and by the fact that members of her community (incredibly) fault her for turning the boys in. The two young men who digitally penetrated her as onlookers stood by watching and recording them will be incarcerated, will have to register as sexual offenders upon their release, and will have to live with the responsibility of ruining a young woman’s life. Whatever hopes and dreams all three of these young people had in life are changed irreparably by the horrific circumstances of one Friday night.

As the parent of a young adult daughter, I shudder to read about that poor young woman surrounded by attackers and people who failed to help her. And as the parent of two teenaged sons, I shudder to read yet another story of young men allowing a night of partying to turn into a night of sexual assault. We’ve seen this before. Fueled and confused by the lethal combo of alcohol, a bravado born of the hero-worship that local athletes often enjoy, and an abandonment (however temporary) of any kind of moral decency or good sense, young men cross the line to commit terrible crimes. It would be easy to dismiss these young men as perverted lunatics, but watching one of the young men’s hysterically tearful apology to the girl and her family lets us know that the story is more complicated than that. How do we as parents use these cautionary tales to instruct our boys and girls about avoiding opportunities to get into serious, terrible trouble?

I write this from the Bahamas, where high school and college kids have gathered during Spring Break to take advantage of warm beautiful weather, a lower drinking age (18) and the absence of parental supervision to party like it’s 3am all day. As I walk past throngs of young women wearing next to nothing bikinis or impossibly short dresses with more impossibly high heels, gathering to plan their next moves, I want to gather them and warn them that no good can come of the combination of their outfits and the abundance of alcohol. As I see the groups of young men eyeing these young women I want to stop and tell them don’t lose your sense of right and wrong, don’t be goaded by your friends into taking risks, stay aware of your surroundings and have good common sense at all times. I’ve had this conversation with my son dozens of times, and now I want to yell at all of them at the top of my lungs, “PLEASE DON’T BE STUPID”.

Don’t be stupid. How often have we said this to our sons, to ourselves? And yet daily our children take chances, some of them really stupid, which lead them to face unfortunate but completely foreseeable consequences. If it were only so simple that issuing a note (or a million notes) of caution could make the difference.

But there is another side to this: a little bit of stupid can go a long way. Learning not to be stupid involves making a few mistakes, so you can see firsthand how not to make them again. As parents our job is not to shelter our children from the opportunity to choose to do the right thing. College infirmaries are filled with kids whose parents shielded them so well from the stupidity of indulging in bad behavior that the first day they were on their own they overdid it. As I see it, our job is not to protect our kids from making any stupid mistakes; it is to arm them with as much common sense as we possibly can, encourage them to use that common sense to think their way away from potentially bad situations, and pray fervently that this will all work to keep them from making the Big Stupid Mistakes. Talking to our (age appropriate) children about all of the lessons of this tragic Steubenville case is a good start.

It is easy to be judgemental, to survey those kids in Steubenville or these kids in the Bahamas and smugly assure ourselves that our son or daughter will never participate in any such reckless behavior. It is harder to acknowledge that some of us came to know the problems of reckless behavior from personal experience. Maybe we were in a party where stupidity reigned and consequences flowed, or we knew people for whom being in that crowd was a really stupid mistake. Hopefully not a life altering or criminal mistake, but a really stupid mistake nonetheless.

As parents we dance on the head of a pin stuck between constantly saying “no way” based upon our knowledge born of experience, and allowing our children to develop and use the common sense that they need to have on their own. It is an exhausting marathon dance. Stories like the one out of Steubenville remind us that we can’t stop dancing. Talk to your teenaged sons and daughters about the Steubenville case. Talk to them about knowing when to stop, when to walk away and when and how to get help (and contact you) in dangerous situations. Tell them how much harder it is to do these things when alcohol blurs judgement. If you decide to let them go, tell them to have fun and be safe. Remind them you’ll be there no matter what, but that part of the deal of letting them go is that you trust they can and will stay focused on not being stupid. Then try not to hold your breathe until they come home.

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Filed under Ages 16-18, College Bound Students, Parents, Resources, Saving Our Sons