Powering the potential of African-American men and young boys

November 26, 2018

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African-American Partnership was formed in 2000 after Dr. Johnnetta Cole saw there wasn’t enough leadership positions for African-Americans in Greater Atlanta, AAP Director Bryan Vinson said.

Since its formation, AAP has garnered more than 1,000 members and raised $2.2 million annually for United Way.

AAP is made up of donors with similar ideas in regard to giving, leadership and service. It was created to bring together United Way donors who were underrepresented, and in its first five years, AAP realized a 75-percent membership increase because of partnerships with previously unreached groups. It is a place for African-Americans to make a personal connection and volunteer in a way to personally meet the needs of program recipients.

“Our signature cause is powering the potential of African-American boys and young men toward academic achievement,” Vinson said. “We saw that our women’s groups had a lot of success with focusing on a specific cause, and they were able to pass a statewide amendment, so that became a model for other groups.

“So, we partnered with the [Community Engagement] department to make sure we were in line with where United Way was going.”

Looking at compiled data, Vinson said African-American boys and young men were “pulling up the rear” with graduation rates, truancy and test scores.

“This was something that was attractive to us to provide a bridge where we could have a significant impact,” Vinson said. “There was a real gap for adolescent students, and so that was where we started to make our mark.”

AAP worked first to equip five schools with after school-type activities they called “Build a Library,” Vinson said. AAP provided fiction and non-fiction books, as well as books on finance and wealth management and all types of arts and science literature.

“Our big push was to make it fun and exciting,” Vinson said. “We wanted them to do art projects and go on field trips, keep journals — some of the programs have even written and published their own manuscripts.”

Vinson said they used donor dollars to bring iPads, bookshelves and booths to create an engaging academic space. He said the participation varies depending on the space, but the results were tangible. Young men became more proficient in using technology and became exposed to different potential career paths, as well.

Since 2016, they’ve raised $150,000 to fund seven library sites.

“It became about career exposure and how do we continue to broaden their perspective on what careers are possible,” he said. “Not everybody is going to be an athlete or a musician, so it’s about exposing them to 100 different professionals with 100 different careers, so they can begin to think about whether or not this is the correct field for them.”

On Nov. 8, AAP hosted its fourth annual “Mentoring Our Youth” event, which was a volunteer event aimed at students of Price Middle School and Carver High School. Vinson had representatives from colleges and fraternities talk to students about the college life and getting involved with a service organization.

They also hosted a “mock networking mixer.”

“We had people from different fraternities come in first and talk about college. For the second part, they get to interact and network with people,” said Stephanie Gloster, AAP Cabinet chair.

Vinson said this was “a great opportunity” for students to speak to members and hear success stories they can relate to.

AAP member Rolanda Wheeler said it’s important to share these success stories with these young students.

“I think mentoring children is very important because they are the future generation that are going to be important,” Wheeler, who was at her first volunteer event with AAP in Atlanta, said. “This gives us the chance to give them advice and share our stories with them. Children and teens may struggle sometimes, and we’ve had struggles already. We can talk to them and inspire them to pursue their dreams.”

To find out more about AAP and how to join, email AAP@unitedwayatlanta.org or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.