A student looks to Dr. Tene Davis during a group discussion at Booker T. Washington High School in Fulton County — he looks dejected as he tells Davis that he struggles with planning and time management.

Davis says the young man tells him that he’s “not good at planning” in a discussion about exploring skills and personality traits.

“[He says] that is something that he would like to improve,” Davis says. “We had a group discussion in which he exclaimed that he feels he, ‘just goes about his day-to-day without much thought.’”

The teenager is joined by 15 other students like him at an after-school session held at the high school. Davis helped lead about 60 sessions over the course of a year at Booker T. Washington High School. The program was a result of a grant funded by United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African-American Partnership (AAP).

Over the course of a year, Davis says facilitators led discussions and activities on topics that were identified to help foster young men’s “black male identity development.” Students attended team-building retreats, college tours, career training fairs and they participated in AAP’s Day of Service.

“We had a core group of dedicated young men who regularly attended weekly sessions and meetings,” Davis says. “We completed a retreat at Georgia State’s Indian Creek Lodge in which the young men completed several unique team building challenges and media training.”

He says these sessions helped fine-tune skills that they were able to take with them to the career fair at the school in the spring. The program was funded through AAP’s Build-A-Library program. Build-A-Library sites are funded by United Way of Greater Atlanta through the African-American Partnership affinity group. AAP has provided books and other learning materials for different locations across Greater Atlanta through this Build-A-Library program.

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African-American Partnership was established 20 years ago to engage an underrepresented population of United Way giving societies.

APP celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with its fifth-annual Leadership Luncheon on Feb. 29, 2020.

The partnership launched June 2000 under an African American Initiative moniker by Conchita Robinson and Charles Stephens with the purpose of increasing financial participation and volunteers from our community — there was also this real desire to make United Way’s donor base more reflective of the demographics in Atlanta where they serve. AAP committed itself to addressing achievement gaps and improving outcomes for African-American boys and young men in the Greater Atlanta region by offering resources and mentorship.

AAP is open to donors with shared affinities for philanthropy, leadership and service, and members of AAP donate $1,000 a year or more to United Way of Greater Atlanta. Currently, AAP has more than 1,000 members and raises more than $2 million annually.

That money feeds into United Way’s overall goal of improving the well-being of more than 250,000 children in Greater Atlanta’s 13 counties by 2027.

United Way saw after its strategic planning meeting two years ago that the zip code a child lived in too often determined the fate of that child. United Way saw that, statistically, because of what zip code a child was born into, he or she was handed a disadvantage beyond their control. Through a set of 14 measures, United Way calculated at the time a child well-being score of 58.9.

On May 9, officials announced the score had improved in two years to 61.8. That equates to a change in the lives of more than 82,000 children in the region living in low or very low child well-being. By using the child as the lens, we can identify the big picture needs of the community, such as a need for essential educational resources for these communities.

Davis says the participants enjoyed activities that challenged them. They saw positive effects on the young men in areas of identity development, reading for understanding and time management skills.

He brought that one young man’s concerns up for discussion for the rest of the group. It was a learning moment.

“Upon further questioning and exploration, we realized that he is thoughtful and proficient in setting goals, had developed several contingencies or back-up plans, and we demonstrated how these attributes are related to planning and success,” Davis says. “The student expressed understanding and confidence after realizing that this skill he previously believed he lacked was one of his strongest qualities.”

To give back to your community and help power the potential of other young black men, join the African-American Partnership. Email AAP@unitedwayatlanta.org to learn more.

In the summer of 2017, when AAP Director Bryan Vinson came to deliver books for AAP’s Build-A-Library project at Raising Expectations, Akeem Haqq was there to help him unload the books. When AAP spoke with Tangee Allen, co-founder of Raising Expectations, she was excited to share Akeem’s progress thanks to the Build-A-Library project.

Akeem is now a senior at Washington High School and participates in Early College through Georgia State University. He is applying for colleges in Georgia and Alabama and wants to study engineering with a focus on computer science and gaming.

Why highlight Akeem?
“We have worked with Akeem since he was in middle school. We have really seen him grow and benefit from this project supported by United Way of Greater Atlanta and the African-American Partnership.”

What changed for Akeem through working with the project?
“The project has allowed him to believe in himself. Akeem comes from a background with challenges. His mother never graduated from high school and his father is a pet tech at a local pet store.

Thanks to this project, Akeem has people in his life to remind him that he is academically gifted. It encourages him to celebrate his love of reading at a time when reading isn’t considered ‘cool’ for a young African-American man. Akeem has a path to a postsecondary education that he can really actualize.”

What has been one of the most impactful experiences for him through the project?
“Mentorship from older men of color has been particularly meaningful. Before working with Build-A-Library, most of our mentors were college-age students. Our work with the African-American Partnership opened the door to add mentorships with professional African-American men, providing ongoing mentoring sessions with our students. Many of the young men in our program are growing up in single parent matriarchal households. This element makes a real difference.

Akeem works with his mentor Quinton on a weekly basis. One of the more impactful activities Akeem and Quinton did together was read books by African-Americans who had to survive difficult circumstances. The two discuss each book. They read The Kid by Sapphire. Quinton related parts of the story to his own journey which added context to the book.

Quinton complements others in Akeem’s life who all work to hold him accountable for the choices that he makes in his life.”