New leadership society aimed at helping local African American children

BETTENDORF, Iowa -- United Way of the Quad Cities is launching a new organization to help African American students become successful in the future.

On Tuesday, United Way of the Quad Cities launched the African American Leadership Society (AALS).

"This has been six months in the making of planning, preparing and getting ready to introduce it to the community," said Tracy White, the manager for the newly formed society.

AALS plans to address the needs of the African American community with a focus on education, income and health.

"They're last across the board on everything," said White. She said the group has done extensive research and has found that education is the biggest problem area.

"Kindergarten readiness is only at 53%. Third grade reading proficiency is only at 43%. High school graduation rate is only at 83%. Those numbers have to change," White said.

White said the society plans to work with current school programs, but on a smaller scale. She said it will help scale their programs by providing them the resources to expand their reach.

"(Those programs are) already in schools that have high African American population," White said. "But they need people. They need bodies. They need people who care to go into the schools and work with the children."

Interim Superintendent for Davenport, TJ Schneckloth, said the society approached the district prior to do needs assessments. He agrees reading proficiency is the most urgent.

"At first you learn how to read, and right about the third grade time frame you read to learn. So if you haven’t learned to read by third grade, from there on out you have assignments on ‘read this then we’ll talk about it’," Schneckloth said. He said it is an issue that can form into a downward spiral.

Both educators and leaders of AALS agree that a lower reading proficiency leads to a higher drop out rate.

"You start making the correlation and you start building the narrative, and you understand why this is happening," White said. "So if you understand it, now what do you do? Now you know the problem, so what are you going to do about it?"

The final steps of the Society's launch is being called "100/100/100." White said she is looking for 100 investors, 100 volunteers, and 100 mentors to help them accomplish their goals.


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