The Black Star Project was founded in 1996 to improve the quality of life in the black American and Latino communities of Chicago by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap. We believe that by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap, many other quality-of-life gaps will improve for African American and Latino students, their families and their communities. The Black Star Project began as a small mentoring program in two Chicago public schools. Since then, we have grown to be an organization with national impact for our innovative programs that engage and inspire students, parents and communities to improve educational outcomes. The Black Star Project works to help pre-school through college students succeed academically by providing educational services while supporting parents, families and communities to effectively provide educational supports for their children and students.
The Black Star Project's multiple initiatives address parent development, student engagement and educational advocacy. Upon our founding in 1996 we introduced two programs that are now in their fourteenth year. Student Motivation Program was designed to inspire students to do well in school through classroom-based mentoring. The Barbara Ann Sizemore Communiversity for Educational Excellence consisted of a series of community meetings designed to generate a public arena for full community dialogue leading to advocacy on a variety of issues concerning closing the academic achievement gap.
In our second year (1997), The Black Star Project introduced Silas B. Purnell Destination College, an initiative designed to promote awareness during middle school, about the importance of post-secondary education. Destination College was expanded in 2005 to prepare high school students to successfully apply to, attend and succeed in college through a series of workshops facilitated by college students that included college tours. Shortly thereafter we sponsored college fairs throughout Chicago known as Jump Start on College.
In 2004, the first annual Million Father March was launched as a nationwide event to mobilize black fathers and male caregivers to take their children to school on the first day. That same year, The Black Star Project implemented Parent University, designed to equip parents with the necessary skills, resources and information to build stronger families and ensure the proper education of their children. Fathers Club was also born that year, hosting free educational and recreational outings for fathers and significant male caregivers and their children while encouraging men to work for educational and other positive changes in their communities.
In March of 2007, we coordinated the first Men In Schools program, a comprehensive campaign designed to encourage men to volunteer in schools. In 2008, the campaign, led by Fathers Club members, expanded to Men In Schools Week that offers a full array of activities and opportunities for men. We also began our school-based Black Star Scholars Tutoring program in four Chicago public schools in 2007. In 2008, 25 Chicago public schools asked The Black Star Project to provide tutoring services for their students.
In 2008, we started our Take a Black Male to Worship campaign to engage black churches to supply mentorship and support to young men. Participating churches are also encouraged to adopt a school throughout the year.
And in January of 2008, we launched the Parent of the Year Awards, acknowledging and rewarding outstanding parents at public and private schools throughout Chicago. The 2008 Golden Parent Award of cash was given to the top parents in Chicago schools.
Since 2007 The Black Star Project has been tracking youth violence in Chicago. Beyond the obvious tragedy of pre-mature and senseless death, we believe that when students cannot feel safe to focus on their school work, their academic achievement suffers. We have organized marches, vigils, student auditorium sessions, conflict- resolution workshops, forums and parent workshops on gangs and violence. In the 2008-09 school year, 53 Chicago students 18 and under were killed, and in the first 2 and one-half weeks of the 2009-10 school year, 5 students 19 years old and under have already been killed. We have been organizing volunteers and staff around a campaign that we call Peace in the Hood. Armed with information, posters, wristbands and t-shirts, we send groups of individuals out into the communities most in need to reach and inspire disengaged and hopeless youth to continue their education and seek employment. This initiative is still relatively new and in development, yet we believe that the problem of youth violence needs to be addressed as it connects to education.