On September 21st, Fund II Foundation kicked off its Black Girl E.D.U. series. The Black Girl E.D.U series is designed to “Educate, Develop and Unite a national audience of key stakeholders (educators, administrators, policymakers, funders etc.) with necessary tools regarding these issues impacting the growth of Black Girls in America.” The Fund II Foundation launched this series by hosting a conversation on the state of Black girls in America, particularly regarding the education system through Monique Morris’ documentary “Pushout”.
The event took place virtually and featured a panel of experts, including Cheryl Jones, President & CEO of Girls Inc. of St. Louis and Brianna Baker, Founder & Executive Director of Justice for Black Girls, as well as two students who shared their direct experiences from their retrospective environments. The purpose of the event was to explore solutions to the inequitable school disciplinary practices that too often interfere with Black girls’ education, growth and potential.
According to the U.S. Department of Education for Civil Rights data, Black girls in the U.S. are seven times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension and four times more likely to be arrested than their white female peers.
Solutions Toward Creating Equal and Safe Learning Environments
In the Black Girl E.D.U. conversation, the participants discussed recommendations including policy changes at the federal, state and local levels to counter discriminatory disciplinary practices and give girls of color opportunities to reach their highest potential. Some of these solutions include:
- Increasing opportunities for extracurricular and sports activities for Black girls and other girls of color
- Elimination of suspension and expulsion for pre-K and grades K-2
- Providing funding for schools and communities to enhance mental and physical health resources in schools
- Providing all staff and school personnel with annual mandatory, age appropriate, gender-inclusive training on bullying, harassment and violence
An in-depth look at these issues, and a plea to involve federal, state, and local policymakers is available at the PushOut website, which is fighting to raise the awareness of these issues facing Black girls in America.
Increasing Educational and Career Opportunities for Black Women
As founding director and President of Fund II Foundation, Robert F. Smith is dedicated to helping improve the lives of Black girls, whether that be in school or in their professional lives.
Smith recognized the role that internships and mentors played in helping him succeed in his career, so he worked with the Fund II Foundation to look at ways to create similar opportunities for the African-American communities and women. As part of this effort, the Fund II Foundation developed its flagship internship matching program, internX, which allows students and young professionals to develop their skills and work experience in a diverse, equitable and inclusive way. Smith also donated $10 million to fund a tech fellowship program at his alma mater, Cornell University, called the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program. The fellowship supports Black and female students, two groups that have both been historically underrepresented in STEM, who are pursuing engineering degrees at Cornell.
Another way Smith is supporting initiatives uplifting Black women in the U.S. is by helping to shrink the racial disparity regarding student loan debt, which over burdens Black women. Black women carry about 20% more debt than white women do.
Smith is the Chairman of Student Freedom Initiative, a single-purpose nonprofit organization that provides a catalyst for freedom in professional and life choices for students attending Minority Serving Institutions by increasing their social and economic mobility by using a student-centered, holistic and collaborative approach. Smith also made a $20 million donation to Cornell’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in an effort to widen the educational and career opportunities for Black and female students in the STEM field.
To learn more about providing equal educational opportunities for diverse students, visit the Fund II Foundation website.