African American Male Achievement program aims to help Oakland students

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Stopping the epidemic failure of a group of Oakland Unified students is the idea behind a four year old program called African American Male Achievement.

The program was created in 2010 and Oakland was the first school district in the nation to specifically reach out to African American males in hopes they stay in school and continue on to college.

Christopher Chatmon is the executive director of the program he says he didn't have a positive experience in school and wanted to change that for future students. "I made a commitment to myself that when I graduated ultimately I want to come back to the public school system and be an extraordinary teacher," says Chatmon.

The program seems to work for the young men who took part in a summit about African American life before Wednesday night's Golden State Warrior game.

The young men KTVU spoke with say it's important to see and hear from people who look like them.

"I did used to get into trouble a lot but then when I got the program in middle school it gave me that backbone and made sure I had someone looking over me," says Willie Scott III an 11th Grader at Oakland High.

"They've kind of like been in our shoes already so they understand and they know how to help us to succeed in life," says Toussaint Stone an 11th Grader at Midwest High.

The young men are called Kings and are told about the importance of their worth.

Chatmon says the suspension rate for African American males has dropped more than 40 percent across the district since the program began.

He's also helped recruit more than 30 African American male teachers to Oakland public schools and the students grades are on the rise. "The graduation rate was about 42 percent for African American male students, we are now at about 57 percent," says Chatmon.

"I went from a 2.5 to a 3.75," says Stone. The program is in 16 Oakland schools and the hope is to expand it to even more.