CHICAGO – Don’t tell D’Andray Jackson hope is lost; he’ll have none of it.
His arms tucked inside a sweatshirt on a cool morning, D’Andray shrugs off the hard math that suggests he, as a young black male, isn’t supposed to make it.
His school, Beidler Elementary on Chicago’s west side, ranked 1,531 out of 2,068 elementary schools statewide. It’s a poor showing, but with 26 percent of the students meeting state averages in reading and math – up from just 2.7 percent eight years ago – there have been gains.
“I have a lot of hope,” said D’Andray, 15, an eighth-grader standing atop busted concrete early on a school day. Asked about career dreams, he shoots high.
“I’m thinking business,” he said. “The CEO of something, anything. … It is crazy, but yeah, I’ve got hope.”
D’Andray’s hope belies the employment record for black youth.
The black youth (ages 16 to 19) unemployment rate for April was 38.2 percent, compared with the white youth unemployment rate of 22.8 percent. Experts say the employment rate is a more telling figure. In April, just 15.5 percent of black youth were employed, compared with 28.3 percent of white youth the same age.
White young people 20 to 24 years old had an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, compared with blacks in the same age range, who had an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent.
Education is one of the prime requirements for obtaining and keeping a job, according to the experts, and with the high school dropout rate for black youth nearly twice that of white youth, blacks’ employment will be affected throughout their lives.
U.S. Department of Education statistics show that 5.2 percent of white youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are high school dropouts, while 9.6 percent of black youth in the same age range have dropped out. But those numbers do not reflect the overall percentage of the workforce without high school diplomas.
Hey! Thanks for being a part of the Youth Today community. Can’t see the content you wish to view? Click here to become a subscriber and get access to all our subscriber only content, including our grant opportunities column.