The D.C. Public Education Fund recently celebrated 10 years of service to District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), with panels and sessions highlighting some of their most successful work, particularly, their Empowering Males of Color initiative. Created for the 2007-2008 school year, the “D.C. Ed Fund,” as it is known by residents, began to connect the philanthropic community with D.C. Public Schools.

Young men attending the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School. (Courtesy photo)

“We were created to help D.C. Public Schools usher in the sweeping, systemic changes that have helped earn DCPS a reputation as the strongest national model for urban education transformation. Since that time, our investments have helped shape DC Public Schools into the fastest-improving school system in the nation,” Jessica Rauch, president of the D.C. Public Education Fund told the AFRO.

One of the Ed Fund’s most successful initiatives, Empowering Males of Color, or EMOC, is an example of the transformative and long-lasting effect that can occur when strategic investments are used to address systemic challenges.

“Launched in January 2015 with the support of Mayor Bowser and city business leaders, the Empowering Males of Color initiative devotes significant resources and attention to accelerating African American and Latino male student achievement, ensuring all young men in our nation’s capital can realize their full potential,” said Rauch.

The initiative started after pinpointing the crisis young men of color were facing. “The data was stark and undeniable. On every measure of student achievement young men of color were performing far below their peers – from academics to attendance to suspension rates to student satisfaction. Something had to be done so that fewer men would fall through the cracks,” Rauch said.

Celebrating a decade of helping raise funds to address issues in education, the Ed Fund held a Philanthropy Forum on Oct. 5. Attending were representatives from several school districts and organizations from around the country, to learn how to strategically correct challenges, such as poor academic performance in minority and low-income communities.

“There is national momentum to find ways to ensure that philanthropic giving can realize its intended impact, particularly in places primed to transform outcomes for low-income kids and kids of color. With that spirit in mind, we crafted D.C. Ed Fund’s philanthropy forum to provide space and time for D.C. Ed Fund to share how we cultivated a successful philanthropic model and begin to build and share best practices with our sister nonprofits from across the country,” the president of the Ed Fund said.

For that reason, initiative was at the forefront of panel discussions, breakout sessions, and testimonials. The “Empowering Males of Color in Washington, D.C.” panel featured a discussion of the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, an all-male public school that opened in 2016, as a direct result of the EMOC initiative. The school has faced controversy because there is not an equivalent for young women.

Ben Williams, principal of the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, was featured on the panel and shared some of the important steps he took to ensure the success of Ron Brown, such as being creative and creating a family-like environment.

Two students at Ron Brown, Christian Johnson and Antwan Peters, were featured during the Philanthropy Forum’s DCPS Student Testimonials session. The two 10th graders are part of Ron Brown’s inaugural class. “When I first came to Ron Brown, I had a song in my head, “I don’t want to be here. Take me to another school.” Now, 12 months later, I will never change anything. I love this school,” Peters said.

Johnson remarked on the opportunities the school afforded him. “Everything, the school and the mission, are great. I’ve had a couple of great opportunities that happened this year. I was on CNN, Fox News, I was in the {Washington Post} at least three times, and I also went to Georgetown for free for a three-week summer program for SAT preparation . . .,” he said.

The EMOC initiative is slated to continue beyond the all-male institution.

“We have already found ways to integrate lessons and programs from the innovation grants we funded to be sustained long-term on the local DCPS budget,” Rauch told the AFRO.