Kevin Stiner | September 07, 2023
Alum spearheads an initiative that aims to put Rochester boys on the right path.
Exhaustion set in over the summer of 2010 after Burnice Green ’92/’94/’01 wrapped up his first year as the assistant principal at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School #9 in the Rochester City School District (RCSD).
“I felt like I didn’t get anything accomplished other than disciplining students,” Green said. “I went home that summer and I said, ‘Listen, I can’t do this for another 20 years. I have to figure out another way to really inspire young men.’”
“Every young man has a story and we have to give them the platform to tell their story. When we provide the platform to be heard and understood, they’re going to rise to the occasion.”
Burnice Green ’92/’94/’01
So, Green started the MLK Boys Academy, which holds boys in elementary school, grades 3-6, to a high standard, while expanding educational topics to include life skills, conflict resolution, how to cultivate healthy relationships, and how to be leaders.
More than a dozen years later, the Academy continues to post high school graduation rates nearly 30% higher than that of other males in the RCSD. Each cohort of academy graduates has routinely exceeded a high school graduation rate of 90%.
“Every young man has a story and we have to give them the platform to tell their story,” said Green. “When we provide the platform to be heard and understood, they’re going to rise to the occasion.”
In 2010, Green analyzed the suspension data of students at his school and noticed about 20 boys of color were responsible for nearly 60% of suspensions. He made it his mission to reach those 20 boys to alleviate the amount of time spent on discipline. Green built a rapport with the students by attending athletic events and church services while making the time to talk to their parents.
“They excelled. These were the same boys that I spent the last year disciplining and suspending from school. Suspensions were down, and there were very few referrals,” Green said. “If they had a referral, they were able to talk about it, using the skills we taught them through peer mediation and how to deal with conflict.”
The academy tripled in size after its first year with students eager to join. With the assistance of the Brockport community and RCSD teachers, including several volunteers, extended learning opportunities are offered on campus over five weeks in the summer.
Green noted the importance of young children visiting a college campus as it allows them to envision what it might be like to graduate high school and attend college.
“Most important to me is having that engagement with the parents and getting them away from the city, and putting them on the campus,” Green said. “They are in awe. They’re looking around and all these professors are engaging with them at all these events. Now I’m hearing, ‘I want to go here. I want to go to this school. I want to go to college.’”
Sessions over the summer include guest lectures from past academy graduates like Isaiah Stewart of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, or from Brockport faculty members including assistant professor of chemistry Bob LeSeur, who wrote about how the experience reinvigorated his passion to teach.