Rochester, N.Y. — When the school day ends, Asad Muhammad begins his second job - baking. On Friday, he spent several hours preparing batches of cookies for his customers at the Rochester Public Market.
“I want them to experience the same quality of time that I put in my work,” Muhammad said. “I want them to feel that in my product.”
Muhammad, a junior, should graduate on time. But many of his peers are unlikely to do the same.
A recent report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education tracked black male students in the Rochester City School District class of 2006. Nine percent graduated with a regents diploma in four years according to the report. Rochester produced the worst graduation rate among black male students among large districts in the nation.
“This is an epidemic and a serious one and my hope is that the community, the school district and all of us that are concerned will take the right step to address the needs of our children,” said Bolgen Vargas, E.d.D., Rochester City School District Superintendent.
Samuel Jacobs’s grades were in bad shape until he and his family worked together to help him succeed.
“God bless them,” Jacobs said. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I’d be.”
The difficulties faced by Jacobs are many and they go beyond academics.
His brother, Tyrone Members, is in prison for murder. Another brother, Tracey Walker, was killed four years ago.
“It’s hard sometimes, but I want to graduate for them too,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs attended summer school, is tutored, and fields questions from his parents about his academic progress regularly.
He is three credits shy of graduation, according to his father.
School district leaders have long pointed toward families to help improve student achievement. There are tentative plans to add academic support for the next school year according to Vargas.
“Next year it is my hope that 20 percent of the population would be receiving more time and support than they are getting,” Vargas said.