Some kids in the Hickman Mills School District will get extra attention to push them to excel academically, develop critical thinking skills and turn away from crime.
The school district is partnering with the Kansas City Police Department, St. James United Methodist Church and City Hall to connect black male students ages 12 to 18 to mentors. It’s through the OK (Our Kids) Program, a mentoring and leadership development program founded 25 years ago in Rancho Cordova, Calif.
OK programs are in Kansas City, Kan., Little Rock, Ark., Monroe, La., and Oakland, Calif. They bring together police, school officials and faith-based groups to benefit young people.
It’s a worthwhile initiative for the majority-minority south Kansas City school district.
Donald Northcross, OK Program founder, president and chief executive, said in a prepared release: “For the past 25 years, we have been able to positively impact and in many cases save the precious lives of so many young black boys. Through the hard work and dedication of our incredible partnerships, we are looking forward to having the same kind of impact in south Kansas City.”
Northcross was a deputy sheriff when he started the program in 1991. The program has helped establish more positive relationships between the black community and police.
Hickman Mills Superintendent Dennis L. Carpenter said the school district looked forward to the program having a positive effect on young people. “We have been discussing the need to be targeted in our efforts to ensure that our lowest performing sub-group, black males, begin to prosper both in and out of school,” Carpenter, who’s black, said in a prepared release.
He added that he looked forward to the OK Program “fostering life-changing relationships that will have a long-lasting impact on the black males in our district.”
Kansas City police Officer Garron Carter has been named OK Program coordinator. He is working with Hickman Mills principals at Smith Hale Middle School, Hickman Mills Freshman Center and Ruskin High School.
The initiative fits well with President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program, which Obama started in 2014 to get businesses, foundations and community groups to invest and create support mechanisms to keep youths in school and out of trouble. The program also reached out to school districts nationwide to reduce suspensions, the dropout rate and better prepare male students of color for college and careers.
Several organizations in the Kansas City area are involved in My Brother’s Keeper. One more is always welcomed.
For more information about the OK Program to to www.okprogram.org.