About the Disparities

the racial disparities of dane

In comparison to white youths, African American youths of Dane County have much less opportunity in many aspects of their lives. African American youths of Dane County live are born into in a system where they are 16 times more likely to be arrested, 4.5 times more likely not to meet third grade reading standards, and 13 times more likely to grow up below the poverty line, than it is for their white youth counterparts (Race to Equity). Because racial disparities are prevalent in education, incarceration rates, and poverty rates; it might be argued that children of color in Dane County are disadvantaged from the moment they are born.

Race to Equity: A Baseline Report on the State of Racial Disparities in Dane County. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, 2013. Print.

The Lussier Loft can be seen quite clearly as a direct response to Dane County’s alarming racial disparities in juvenile achievement which almost certainly translates into socioeconomic status later in life. According to The Race to Equity, only about 50% of African American high school students graduate on time in comparison to 85% of all white high school students in Madison Public Schools. Furthermore, on average African American youths are more than twice more likely to be arrested than white youths in the USA, however African American youths in Dane County are 16 times more likely to be arrested than white youths are in Dane County. (Race to Equity)

Race to Equity: A Baseline Report on the State of Racial Disparities in Dane County. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, 2013. Print.

What was most fascinating to me (and perhaps also the most distressing) was the realization of the “hidden risks” these children of color face. The statistics would indicate that they are disadvantaged from the moment of birth. Fortunately, The Loft has not only started to identify these “hidden risks” but has introduced programs to close the gaps they have created. The most distressing aspect of these “hidden risks” which affect the African American children of Dane County, accepting these disparities as “normal”. The indifference and or acceptance of these racial disparities means we risk instilling into the next generation that this type of racially segregated success or failure is acceptable for us or our children. This leaves the real possibility of conditioning our children with a mentality that African Americans are somehow inferior to whites. This “rationalization” of the status quo is a risk with consequences which are far-reaching and affect the community as a whole, as well as the individual child. It needs to be addressed that these disparities are not something for which our community should be known nor can we let them continue. These disparities cannot proceed as the status quo, and if they do, not only are we failing as a community, we will also be failing our children. (The Race to Equity)

Dane’s County’s racial disparities are some of the largest African American to white disparities in the entire nation and do not reflect the values which I believe Dane County would want to have or to continue to have.

The intention of the structured nature of The Lussier Loft Program is to keep young African American students involved in school and asset building activities. These disparities alone create an obvious risk for Dane County’s youths and needs to be addressed immediately. If these disparities are not addressed and not considered a priority, then Dane County will not be equipped to close the achievement gaps that have been identified. (Race to Equity) Addressing the problems early may be the key to leveling the playing field for this generation and generations to come.

More About the Program

about the lussier loft

The Lussier Loft Program is a comprehensive after school program hosted in Madison’s Goodman Community Center. This facility provides a safe and supportive location where students residing in Dane County can come together to participate in structured activities and socialize amongst their peers in a safe, controlled, and healthy after school environment. Although The Goodman Community Center is open to the public, The Lussier Loft Afterschool Program geared specifically to African American youth from Madison who come from socioeconomically disadvantaged households and who attend a Madison Public School. Furthermore, priority enrollment into The Lussier Loft Program is based on several other factors: if the child has participated in other Goodman Center programming, if the child is living in a homeless shelter or transitional housing, if the child has been identified by one the public feeder schools as a student needing additional services. Also, The Loft Program partners with the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood, a publicly subsidized housing neighborhood in Dane County.

The Loft Program provides meals, tutoring, structured programming, and transportation to and from The Goodman Center for all the students involved in the program. The Loft analyzes each student’s problems individually to best utilize its resources and programing for that given child. Whether it is helping a student who is falling behind in coursework or helping a student graduate on time by offering “credit recovery” courses, the programming is narrowly tailored to fit the individual student’s needs.

About the Project

about the project

The Lussier Loft Afterschool Program operates out of The Goodman Community Center providing the crucial programming, facilities, and resources needed in order to counteract gaps in opportunity observed when comparing Dane County’s African American middle and high school students to their white youth counterparts. The Lussier Loft offers a state of the art facility for young adults to participate in a wide range of structured academic and asset-building programming specifically aimed at addressing the high racial disparities found in Dane County between African American youth and white youth. According to Race to Equity, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families’ report on the state of racial disparities in Dane County, African American youth are not only comparatively disadvantaged compared to their white peers within the county, but they also have less opportunity and fare less well than African Americans elsewhere in the state and even the nation. The racial disparities in Dane County run deep and can be seen in a multitude of areas including academic achievement, juvenile incarceration rates, and poverty levels. By shaping their programming and facilities towards academic, recreational, and social learning purposes, the Loft aims to help bridge disproportionate gaps in opportunity that Dane’s socioeconomically disadvantaged African American children face.

Over the past two years of volunteering at The Goodman Community Center, I observed first-hand how prevalent these opportunity gaps are in Madison. It was not uncommon for the children I tutored in study hall to be multiple grade levels behind in fundamental areas of their education especially the core curriculum fundamentals such as math and reading. Through my own observations, I became aware that many of the racial disparities seen in Dane seem to be interconnected with what I term as “hidden risks” that youths in the program face. These “hidden risks”, are factors that are common to many of the students who attend the Loft which tend to be present before achievement gaps are found and may be at least partially responsible for those gaps. I found that many of the problems which the participants have are not easily apparent; they are only realized after building a relationship with the student, the school, and the family. These “hidden risks” are often times as simple as a child lacking adequate food, lacking a ride to or from school, or lacking parental supervision after school. Frequently, the smaller-scale “hidden risks” go unnoticed and have an enormous impact on the child and his or her future success. For instance, when a child is numerous grade levels behind in reading, the underlying “hidden risk” may be that the child does not have a dependable ride to school each day, or must stay home to babysit his or her younger siblings.

The Lussier Loft Program provides an often overlooked but vital link between the kids, the community, the school, and the parents or guardian(s) of the child. The program recognizes and then addresses these risks by providing its participants services like: transportation between school/The Goodman Center/home; after school snacks and dinner; one-on-one tutoring; and supervised childcare every afternoon. There is no doubt that realizing and correcting the fact that if a child is hungry all day, he or she will not be able to effectively learn in school. My hope is to show the value and effect Lussier Loft’s programming and facilities have in reconciling Madison’s African American youth population’s gap of opportunity. This program out of The Goodman Center is acting to identify and counter the issues in the lives of these children that will level the playing field and increase their opportunity for future success.

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the lussier loft afterschool program operates out of The Goodman Community Center providing the crucial programming, facilities, and resources needed in order to counteract gaps in opportunity observed when comparing Dane County’s African American middle and high school students to their white youth counterparts.

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