The Difference

Throughout 2014

Fort Wayne, Ind., is a diverse community. With nearly 25% non-white residents, it’s one of the most diverse cities in Indiana. 

But there is a wide achievement gap between black men and boys in Fort Wayne and other men in the community. From education to incarceration, they’re generally worse off than their peers.

But why? What factors make the difference in the lives of African-American men in Fort Wayne?

Throughout 2014, WBOI hopes to shine a light on the challenges the community faces in closing the achievement gap. And we’ll meet the people dedicating their lives to making a difference.

This project aims to take a broad survey of Fort Wayne’s African-American community as we highlight the personal stories behind the statistics.

Virginia Alvino / WBOI News

During Monday's installment of The Difference, we went to Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne to learn how a mentoring program is working to help black male students succeed. There we met Chris Cathcart, mentor for the program, and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at Ivy Tech.

Virginia Alvino / WBOI News

Black students make up less than ten percent of enrollment at Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne. Of that population, many students face additional barriers to completing their degrees. 

Chris Cathcart is the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne, and heads their African American Male Initiative. The mentoring program takes a hands on approach to help some black students connect to the resources they need to succeed.

Virginia Alvino / WBOI News

The community college was invented to be a gateway to opportunity – open access, low tuition, and a focus on workplace readiness. That model draws a diverse student population, with a vast array of needs.

Today we continue our yearlong series The Difference, exploring black male achievement, with a look at the role of the community college in closing the achievement gap.

Virginia Alvino / WBOI News

This week for our series The Difference, we’re taking a look at school discipline, and how it affects students of color.

So far we’ve learned how a series of small punishments can have big effects on students’ lives through the school to prison pipeline. We’ve also heard about alternative discipline plans that work to prevent that snowballing effect, and keep kids in the classroom.

Fort Wayne Community Schools is among the districts that have implemented a new plan, and they say slowly but surely, it’s helping close their discipline gap.  

Virginia Alvino / WBOI News

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry announced Wednesday that the City will make more of an effort to help young men of color. 

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, or MBK. It challenges cities across the country to implement plans that help young people of color reach their full potential.

In Fort Wayne, MBK will focus specifically on education, employment, health, and youth.

Stephanie Crandall with the mayor’s office says MBK will require making a lot of partnerships between local organizations.  

We continue our series The Difference, exploring black male achievement - today, on a statewide level.

Even when the Indiana General Assembly isn’t in session, lawmakers meet in interim study committees to discuss complex issues facing the state. A few weeks ago, the education committee tackled school discipline.

Those who testified claimed that Indiana’s discipline code is punitive and inconsistent with research, and that suspensions and expulsions disproportionately affect students of color.

Virginia Alvino / WBOI News

Being disciplined in schools can have major long term ramifications for boys of color.

Every kid first learns how to behave – at home. Sometimes with formal rules, sometimes by just observing others. But different styles and standards are brought together when all those kids enter the same classroom. Combine that with cultural diversity, and classroom management becomes a big challenge.

Ron Lewis

As we heard in Wednesday's interview with Ron Lewis, significant challenges exist for young black men in the classroom, and many are hard to quantify. 

But those challenges don't end when those men get to college. 

Only about 15 percent of college students are black – and African-American students are less than half as likely as their white counterparts to complete their degree on time.

Ron Lewis

By now, it should be no surprise to listeners of The Difference that young African-American men are falling behind their peers in the classroom.

In everything from graduation rates to reading proficiency to disciplinary action, the achievement gap between black boys and their classmates is wide.

Rescue Mission

Fort Wayne Rescue Mission CEO Donovan Coley never thought of himself as black until he moved to the U.S. from Jamaica. 

According to Coley, being black in America isn’t just about skin tone. For many,  it’s a role to play in society – a role Coley says he was taught and expected to learn. 

For him, it’s a story of wrestling with a dual identity. It's a perspective he says allowed him to better understand how white and black people interact and the unwritten rules of those interactions. 

Here’s Coley on how he learned to be a black man in America.

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