Pittsburgh schools to continue mentorship program for black teens

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Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane said she knew the district was on the right track to helping African-American teens succeed in high school when after the first motivational meeting a student told her, "Nobody's ever talked to me like that before."

Now the "We Promise" program is set to continue with a $200,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments. The school board Wednesday accepted the grant, which runs through June 30, 2015.

The goal of We Promise is to help more students become eligible for Pittsburgh Promise scholarships, which offer up to $40,000 for postsecondary education to those with 2.5 grade-point averages and 90 percent attendance in high school.

We Promise began in January with an inspirational summit and involved 159 students -- mostly high school juniors -- who were close to meeting Promise standards. The students received mentorship from African-American men.

Of the 159 students, 13 met the Promise standards and were considered Promise ready at the end of 11th grade. There were 74 students whose grade-point averages increased and 57 whose attendance records improved.

Overall, the grade-point average for all We Promise students increased by 0.026 from 10th grade to 11th grade.

Ms. Lane said another summit is planned for this school year. The mentorship portion also will continue.

The grant will support a project manager who will coordinate weekly meetings between students and counselors or social workers. It also will help pay for life skills training for the students.

In 2011-12, only 18 percent of African-American male high school seniors were Promise ready, compared with 68 percent of all white students and 34 percent of African-American females.

The grant was one of several accepted by the board, including $485,081 from the Grable Foundation for arts education transformation; $63,434 from the Heinz Endowments via the Arts Education Collaborative for arts education; and $60,242 from the Grable Foundation for a professional development project at Pittsburgh Allegheny K-5.

education - neigh_city

Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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