Glenn Elementary School’s academic struggles left it on the cusp of a possible state takeover late last year. While the state has backed off, 100 Black Men has stepped up.
On Friday, members of 100 Black Men of Triangle East, Inc., a nonprofit mentoring group, visited the student body of predominantly low income, minority students. The visitors read to students and brought with them 400 culturally relevant books donated to Glenn by Book Harvest about people from diverse backgrounds.
Members of the 100 Black Men’s Triangle chapter instituted a quarterly “Fathers Read” program in the 2016-17 school year with the goal of improving reading comprehension and placing positive African-American male influences at Glenn.
Nathaniel Branscomb, vice president for the Triangle chapter of 100 Black Men, read “Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me” by Daniel Beaty to a class of 40 Glenn students.
The picture book tells the story of an African-American child whose father is imprisoned and how the child finds the inner strength to overcome adversity and achieve his dreams despite the absence of his loving father.
“I can’t tell you how many friends or family members I have that grew up in fatherless or at least one-parent-missing households.” Branscomb said. “To read someone’s story from a child’s point of view, of what that’s like, it choked me up.”
Branscomb, who grew up on the south side of Chicago and now works as a financial professional at Lenovo, said the story resonated with him deeply.
“I don’t know how many people in this room have fathers,” Branscomb told the class while reading the book. “But I do know that I love every single one of you. You remind me of strength and brilliance.”
Maya Perry, a school support specialist with the Durham non-profit Communities in Schools, said the Fathers Read program helps increase student academic engagement. “This is geared toward academics and mentorship. It’s amazing how [the students] are engaged, and it helps them understand that there’s more to life than what’s in front of them. It encourages them to want to do more and be greater.”
Glenn Principal Cornelius Redford said that the Fathers Read program has not only helped with academic engagement and reading comprehension, it has provided an opportunity for students to see strong African-American males in positions of leadership.
Glenn’s student body is 91 percent black and Hispanic, split evenly.
“Mentorship is vital,” Redford said. “Many African-American males are in single parent households raised by a female. Any time you can have other males come in and be a role model, it definitely has the opportunity to have an impact.”
Last September, Glenn Elementary received a grade of “F” on a state board of education report, falling short of growth expectations for state tests and academic scores, putting it on a short list for a possible state takeover that never materialized.
Such scores strongly correlate to poverty levels of the families of students at each school — 92.9 percent of schools in the state that received “D” or “F” grades in the same report included at least half of their students from low-income households.
The Glenn student body is composed almost entirely of children from low-income households. In 2015, 99.5 percent of the students at Glenn Elementary received free lunches as part of the National School Lunch Program, which provides the lunches if family income is below $15,171 annually.
100 Black Men of America, Inc., a nonprofit with 100 national chapters, works to improve the quality of life for African Americans — particularly young males — through mentorship, education, wellness, and economic empowerment programs.
“What this allows us to do is bring in guys with various backgrounds, and hopefully try and bridge some of that gap and show them that we care,” Branscomb said. “If no one cares, they know we’re here.”