Six years ago, when we began the work of researching and building the foundation for the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy (BOMLA) at B. F. Darrell, there were numerous questions about the plans and intent for our future campus. We’re asked all sorts of things, such as: Why do we need an all–male campus in Dallas ISD? Why was the campus named for a sitting president? Why was the campus being started in the Oak Cliff area?
I discussed the importance of every neighborhood (more specifically Southern Dallas) having a great educational option for the students and families of their communities.
I patiently and intentionally answered the inquiries with a reminder of the success model that Irma Lerner Rangel Young Women’s Leadership Academy was providing for the young ladies of our city. I reminded them of the significance of President Obama’s election to the most powerful office in our country. And I discussed the importance of every neighborhood (more specifically Southern Dallas) having a great educational option for the students and families of their communities.
While each of my responses did not offer definitive answers to all the questions I received, I held—and still hold—a belief in the power of purposeful, passionate planning and actions to solve one of the greatest issues plaguing our district, city, state, and nation. The problem being young men of African American and Hispanic descent falling through the cracks of our society due to low life-expectancy rates, high incarceration rates, increased educational performance gaps, and a lack of non–traditional educational opportunities developed to meet their specific needs. Enter BOMLA, whose mission is to “develop young men into impactful leaders through the development of their intellectual, moral, physical, social, and emotional skills for the global society of tomorrow.” Beyond that focus, we seek to build better husbands, fathers, and leaders for our families and communities. This holistic approach was necessary to instill within each of our young men a true understanding of their personal value and their importance as active members of our local, national, and international societies.
During the past five years, we have sought to embody Frederick Douglas’ quote that “it is easier to raise strong children than to repair broken men.” We did so by creating a campus that focused on leadership development with accelerated math and science courses. A campus where students receive instruction within a non-traditional technology-infused setting inclusive of extended school days, Saturday academies, summer camps and non-traditional sports (lacrosse, rowing, golf), and foreign languages, such as Latin, Spanish, and Mandarin. While the campus has grown from 169 young men in grades 6–9 to more than 390 young men in grades 6-12, we have also garnered recognition at the local, state, national, and international levels for our innovative instructional practices and campus culture.
This holistic approach was necessary to instill within each of our young men a true understanding of their personal value and their importance as active members of our local, national, and international societies.
As a result of the successful implementation of single-gendered practices at Irma L. Rangel YMLA and Barack Obama MLA, additional public school campuses focused specifically on serving our young women and men are now available within Dallas ISD and surrounding DFW communities.
While redefining the publics’ perception of young men, we also humbly understand that we are redefining the public educational opportunities and expectations for all students within our surrounding community and district. We believe a great education should not be available for only a small pocket of students from certain communities or financial backgrounds, but for all students. As the civil rights issue of our time is the lack of sound, effective educational opportunities for students within our public school systems.
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