Dr. Floyd Rose, president of the 100 Black Men of Madison, talks about Project SOAR. (Photo courtesy of United Way)

Seventy percent of African American youth in Madison are from economically challenged families. They face numerous challenges: poverty and a lack of reliable resources such as transportation, parents working long hours in poorly paid jobs with little flexibility, unstable and unaffordable housing, inadequate health care and escalating community violence. All contribute to chronic absenteeism and low student expectations.

Many children don’t have a problem learning as much as they have a problem living.
With this in mind, The 100 Black Men of Madison have announced a new initiative, Project SOAR, which is a comprehensive program to lower truancy rates and raise high school graduation rates. The program involves one-on-one mentoring, career exploration, and cultivating discussion on a number of social issues.

Project SOAR (Student Opportunities, Access and Readiness) targets African-American male students, between the ages of 12 and 17, who attend a middle school or high school in the Madison Metropolitan School District. The students will gain a positive self-perception, identify SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) career goals, develop skills to influence others and build a support network. Through this intensive work, Project SOAR’s overall goals include lowering truancy rates by 7% and raising graduation rates by 5% each year over a three-year period for African American male students and providing at least 2,000 community service hours by all participants to local programs and initiatives.

“For African American youth in Madison, truancy is a symptom of a much larger problem: poverty,” said Dr. Floyd Rose, president of The 100 Black Men of Madison. “The vast majority of African American male students in Madison have experienced poverty and its resulting symptoms such as unstable housing, inadequate health care and escalating community violence. All of these factors and more contribute to chronic absenteeism. We are committed to being positive role models in these students’ lives and ensure they are on a path to stay in school and graduate.”

Dr. Floyd Rose, president of the 100 Black Men of Madison
Dr. Floyd Rose, president of the 100 Black Men of Madison

Forty students will receive 40 hours of one-on-one mentoring from a 100 Black Men mentor. 300 students will be a part of Project SOAR’s Career Academy and Success Academy. The Career Academy includes opportunities for students to learn more about different careers. The Success Academy will provide knowledge on a wide range of topics that are essential for the development of a young African American male student. Topics will include discussions on family, relationships, religion, school, financial literacy, gangs, athletics and the justice system.

“As a community, we need to lift up our students, see their strengths and wrap our support around them, especially for our students of color,” MMSD Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said. “The mentoring and support that Project SOAR will provide our African American students will do that, and we are excited to work with The 100 Black Men of Madison to make the program successful.”

The Goals of SOAR Career Academies Are:
◆ Increase student attendance, academic achievement and graduation rates through integrated academic and career curricula.
◆ Focus on career preparation through exposures from subject matter experts based on workforce needs.
◆ Raise student aspiration and commitment to academic achievement and work ethics.
◆ Establish high expectations for all students.
◆ Engage students in planning and making decisions for their future
◆ Provide students with pathways to post-secondary education and career opportunities
◆ Augment student awareness of skills important to success in careers, life, and society
◆ Enhance parent/community involvement

“United Way is proud to support Project SOAR and the relationships it will cultivate between these students and their mentors,” said Renee Moe, president and CEO of United Way of Dane County. “We believe Dr. Rose and The 100 Black Men of Madison have devised effective ways to connect with students to tackle chronic absenteeism and we are honored to be a partner in this program.”

If you would like to be a mentor, Career Academy or Success Academy Instructor, please contact The 100 Black Men of Madison at 100BlackMenMadison.com.

Project SOAR collaborators so far include:
◆ Madison Metropolitan School District
◆ City of Madison (Mayor’s Office) My Brother’s Keeper
◆ The One Hundred Men of America
◆ United Way of Dane County
◆ Madison Police Department
◆ Dane County Executive’s Office
◆ Asset Builders
◆ Madison Fire Department
◆ African American Fraternities and Sororities
◆ CUNA Mutual Group
◆ AT&T
◆ Michels Corporation
◆ Schneider National
◆ Convenience Electronics