“We Make a Life by What We Give”: The Impact of a High School Mentoring Program on the Perceptions and Academic Achievement of Black Males.

Ross, B. R.(2022). “We Make a Life by What We Give”: The Impact of a High School Mentoring Program on the Perceptions and Academic Achievement of Black Males. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of South Carolina). Scholar Commons.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • There is a shortage of support from interventions (e.g., mentoring) that foster post-secondary planning and academic achievement among Black male high school students.
  • The lack of support for Black male high school students negatively affects their perceptions of their schooling (White teachers’ regard for them contributes to this).
  • This qualitative dissertation evaluated a) the impact of a high school mentoring program on Black males’ academic achievements & post-secondary planning and b) how students perceived their White teachers and their schools.
  • A High school mentoring program’s impact on Black males’ academic achievement and perceptions of school
    • Fosters personal growth and network potential
    • Builds brotherhood and positive representation of current participants
    • Adds value for males with or without fathers in the home
    • Provides an emotionally safe place
    • Enhances academic achievement
    • Offers community service opportunities
    • Makes public schools essential
    • Establishes leadership potential
    • Promotes academic agency
    • Develops students holistically
    • Helps students find purpose
    • Promotes behavior, leadership, involvement, scholarship, and service
    • Promotes congruent classroom participation and behavior
    • Creates opportunities for student engagement
  • A high school mentoring program’s impact on Black males’ post-secondary planning
    • Establishes a culture of post-secondary readiness and success
    • Heightens students’ sense of self-efficacy and leadership capabilities
    • Builds leadership capacity and well-rounded students
    • Promotes high academic standards and post-secondary success
  • Black males’ perceptions of their White teachers
    • Limited prioritization of learning outcomes for Black male students
    • Lack of cultural competence
    • Relationships with White teachers vary by gender (supported by White males and fractured with White females)
    • Black male students and White teachers can develop positive relationships.
  • Additionally, findings indicate that the mentoring program projected an intent in academic focus & high academic standards, promoted positive perceptions of schooling, and boosted positive perceptions of White teachers as supportive and understanding.
  • Mentoring provides a supportive learning environment for Black male high school students to achieve academic success & make post-secondary plans and has the potential to address the academic gap between White students and students of color.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract) 

This action research study describes how a high school mentoring program impacts the academic achievement and postsecondary planning of Black male students. It further explores the perception Black male students have on school and their White teachers. The theoretical frameworks that support this research are social bonding theory (SBT) and critical race theory (CRT). This study used a qualitative design through a survey to examine the following research questions: “How does a high school mentoring program impact the academic achievement and perception of school for Black male students?” The study further examined “How a high school mentoring program impacts the postsecondary planning for Black male participants?” Lastly, the study explored, “What perceptions do Black male students have of their White teachers?” There were eight mentees selected from a mentoring program of 40 students. Four alumni of the mentoring program were matched with the current participant sample. Collectively the 12 students were selected through a simple random sample. Data collection included surveys from participants, their parents, teachers, other faculty and staff, and community partners affiliated with the mentoring program and the participants. Results of this study identified several themes that showcase the positive impact of a high school mentoring program on Black male students. The results of this study also suggested that mentoring is a necessary intervention that aids Black male students in their pursuit of academic and postsecondary success. Furthermore, it highlighted that Black male students in a high school mentoring programs project high academic standards and an intent academic focus. The study emphasized how students in mentoring programs possess a positive perception of school. Black male students in high school mentoring programs saw their White teachers, overall, as understanding and supportive. They also reported constructive relationships with their White male teachers and ruptured relationships with their White female teachers.

Implications (Reprinted from the Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations)

Black male students continue to be one of the more academically and socially marginalized students in U.S. schools (Anderson, 2008; Noguera, 2008). The outcomes in school in many ways mirror their condition in the larger society (Polite & Davis, 1999). All of the schools that the researcher have worked in over the past decade have supported the research that was conducted. For educators who are devoted to addressing equity as it pertains to the opportunity gap, there has been growing frustration at the gaps that exist between White students and students of color (e.g., Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Latinos, Indians). These gaps largely impact how Black male students and other minorities perceive schooling. Additionally, understanding the impact of Black male students’ perceptions of their White teachers are equally as important to understanding how they perceive their schooling and learning experiences. According to Howard (2013), “The importance of teachers and teaching for Black male students offers important insights; equally as notable are the ways that these young men make meaning of their schooling experience” (p. 73). Howard added that cultural knowledge of Black male epistemologies and knowledge can lead to new theoretical approaches for Black male students and subsequently improve their schooling experiences and outcomes.

Gordon et al. (2009) focused on building interventions that understand the factors that prevent Black students from excelling in the academic environment. This study used the intervention of mentoring to evaluate the impact levied on academic achievement, perception of school, and perception of their White teachers. Mentoring is impactful and helps students find success as it binds them to the learning environment, which impacts their academic focus, supports their character development, and pushes them toward their postsecondary goals. Although previous researchers such as Gordon et al. (2009) and Freeman (1999) have studied the effects of mentoring on students in postsecondary school, this study focused on students in a high school setting and further examined how mentoring impacts their academic achievement and postsecondary planning, while unearthing how those students perceived school and their White teachers.

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