Tobias Felton needed a great teacher to inspire and support him. That’s not uncommon for high school-aged students in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts--a community known as much for its famed “Towers” of found objects as for anti-police brutality unrest in the 60s. Historically in Watts, many male teenagers attended public high schools with elevated dropout rates, furthering an existing and persistent achievement gap for the entire community. At Green Dot’s Ánimo Watts College Preparatory Academy, Tobias and his peers are working together, and with devoted educators encouraging them, to navigate the choices that can support or undermine their academic success.
But they have help. Math teacher Damon Rutledge is one of those working to help his students overcome these obstacles.
Rutledge created the Urban Scholars program, a specialized program designed to provide African American male students the resources to thrive at school. Urban Scholars is especially focused on connecting students with positive male role models in the community. Rutledge’s goal for Urban Scholars students is for 100 percent of participants to graduate high school, and for 90 percent of students to attend a four-year college or university.