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Cincinnati Program Expands To Empower Young Black Men In Education

An innovative program aimed at connecting young Black men with preschool classrooms as tutors is undergoing an expansion, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Once a tutor successfully completes the Literacy Lab’s Leading Fellowship, they will be eligible for scholarships to be used in their pursuit of an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, whether or not they choose to teach.

This program, initially tested in Washington, D.C., has now spread to several cities, including Cincinnati, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Richmond, Portsmouth, Atlanta, and Phoenix-Mesa. Literacy Lab’s goals involve increasing kindergarten readiness, creating rigorous opportunities for recent high school graduates, and diversifying the teacher pipeline, according to the website. In Cincinnati, fellows earn $16.50 per hour while working in preschools, while gaining access to literacy tutor training, social worker support, financial guidance, and various professional development opportunities.

On August 18, the Literacy Lab’s program in Cincinnati announced it would be expanding with programs in local colleges. Cincinnati State Technical and Community College as well as Mount St. Joseph University agreed to bring the program to their campuses. Any fellow who completes the program will receive nine credit-hours toward a degree in early education at Cincinnati State. Fellows who get their associate’s degree will also receive $20,000 from Mount St. Joseph University.

“This is more than just a job. I used to be a high school teacher. I saw too many guys that were graduating and that were not ready for college or didn’t know what the next steps were. We’re also really showing them that you can make it in college,” Ivan Douglas, the Literacy Lab Leading Fellowship’s national director, explained to The Enquirer. “A number of times our guys shut down too quickly and think that college is not for them, because maybe they barely graduated from high school.”

Douglas also emphasized the achievements of the Cincinnati program, a focus evident in the selection of Cincinnati as the location for its annual training conference. The conference will offer more than 100 fellows the opportunity to utilize networking opportunities and learn about early childhood development techniques and practices they will be employing during the fellowship over the course of the year.

Aleesha Martin, the fellowship’s lead coaching specialist, told The Enquirer that the conference equips the young Black men who attend it for their futures. He said, “They learn how to get in touch with their feelings. They learn how to work as part of a team. They learn the responsibility of showing up on time, being in the classroom with different people, dealing with different types of personalities, which is really important in the workplace. Also, some of them are parents, so we give them skills that they can use at home with their own children.”

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