Gabe Willliams, an 8th grader at Brooks Middle School, has a 3.6 GPA, isn’t a cut up in class, and has no unexcused absences. You can definitely say Gabe is on the right track, and because of it, he hasn’t demanded, or received, much attention from USD 259 school administrators.

Up until now, what Gabe has noticed is a lot of district time and resources spent on under achievers. That’s why he was pleased to be invited to participate in BAASE, a rare and new program in which the Wichita Public School’s resources are focused on high-achieving students.

BAASE, which stands for Better Academics and Social Excellence, kicked off in the Wichita public schools this week with more than 500 middle school boys participating. The number one goal of the program is to create a positive peer group of males of color, who like Gabe, are doing the right thing.

Too often, these young men find themselves the rare student of color in their advance or honors classes. BAASE will connect them with a group of their peers, through once or twice a month programs led by their school’s BAASE coordinator. In addition, there will be BAASE college visits and career exploration events.

In other words, the district is developing a cool group for smart kids. In fact, the group’s motto is, “it’s cool to be smart,” a belief the district hopes will rub off on other students who might what to score some of the benefits afforded “those cool” BAASE members.

In addition to encourage others to “up their game,” BAASE members also have to stay on point. If they fall below the club’s minimum standards, they’re out. So there’s definitely a motivation factor built into the program for BAASE participants. Somewhere along the way, some of these young men could get lost; find themselves on the wrong path. Another major BAASE goal is to not lose any of these high achievers and to at minimum get them to high school graduation.

“That’s the minimum level of achievement,” says Robert Garner, Executive Director of Secondary Schools for UDS 259.

Another objective of the program is to help prepare these young men for college or a post-secondary job training program. Along the way, the program will challenge them academically – you can take that honors or advance placement class – provide them opportunity to grow as a leader, and prepare them for life beyond high school in a world where they’re prepared to achieve their dreams.

This is truly an exceptional program for exceptional young men. Congratulations to the young men and their parents. For other young men and their parents, the bar has been set high, but you too can achieve it.

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Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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