It has been nearly two months since the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown and the beginning of the uprising that the murder triggered. Most social critics have observed that the uprising was not simply about racism and police brutality. Certainly, the cases of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, John Crawford and countless unnamed men of African descent who were killed in racially charged cases fueled the protests. But the greater issue of African-American economic and political disenfranchisement also informed the uprising. Fortune Magazine pointed out that unemployment rate for African-Americans in St. Louis which is near Ferguson was 26 percent in 2012, compared to 6.2 percent for White Americans that same year. These statistics reveal that the work that needs to be done with respect to both healing racism and ending police brutality not only consists of activism, cultural change, new legislation and improved police policies, but also consists of fostering economic opportunity for African-Americans.
The Presidents' Council Foundation or PCF seeks to do just that in Cleveland. In 2011, African Americans in the Cleveland area had an unemployment rate of 17 percent, compared to 8.7 percent for the general population. In order to address such inequities, the PCF selects motivated sophomores in the Cleveland, Ohio area with GPAs between 2.5 and 3.0 who are interested in business, construction, entrepreneurship, financial services, healthcare, law or manufacturing. The selected students meet twice a month for three hours during the academic year and the summer to focus on academic preparedness, career preparedness, leadership and life skills. The program appears to be working. "The greatest achievement of the program to date, is having 93 percent of sophomore students pass the Ohio Graduation Test the first time, 100 percent graduating high school and 100 percent entering either a two-year or four-year higher education institutions", says Nicole Bell, the executive director PCF.
If you know any eligible students in Cleveland please let them know about this program so that they can apply by October 11th. If you do not know any eligible students but you care deeply about improving economic opportunity for African Americans please make a donation at http://thepresidentscouncil.org/the-foundation/donations/. "Donations would really help the program", says PCF Director, Athena Nimmer.