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Supporting African American Youth

Yolanda Wheelington Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Elementary, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership

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My initial purpose for this writing piece was to highlight the current academic status of African American youth in Arizona. Unfortunately, I was not able to locate current information about our academic demographics. I have requested this information from the Arizona Department of Education and will address it in a future blog.

I did learn that there are annual reports on the academic status of Native American Indians in Arizona and it is relatively easy to locate similar information on Hispanics. This has led me to wonder why African American students are not being focused on in a similar manner? This underrepresentation of information on our current levels of achievement is especially bothersome since our youth continue to be over-represented in incarceration centers and national death rates.

For now, I have decided to highlight four agencies that support the development of African American youth in Arizona. These agencies directly seek them out, or provide their supports and services to all of their participants regardless of their ethnicity.  My method for finding these agencies was simple. I typed in search words that I would use if I wanted to find a support service for African American youth in Arizona. The site had to be relatively easy to navigate and the program information had to be accessible from the site.

Please note that there are many more organizations that would fit these criteria. Also, many African American youth continue to participate in life-changing programs that they access through their local churches and communities. In fact, these natural resources are typically the best place to start.

The four highlighted here are INROADS, Valley Youth Theater, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, and Vanguard Initiative.  Please share this information with others and if you know of a supporting agency, please share their information in the comments section.


INROADS provides mentoring and internship support for talented minority youth (Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American Indians) with the goal of linking them to successful employment in corporate America. For the past 40 years, this international organization has continuously produced outstanding industry and community leaders.

10075 E. Via Linda Road, 2nd Floor
Scottsdale, AZ 85258-5325
Telephone (888) 520-8691


Valley Youth Theater (VYT)

Since its start 30 years ago, Valley Youth Theater (VYT)  has continued to be one of the most special youth outreach and support agencies in Arizona for many reasons.  For me, the top three are:

VYT has a reputation for making starts (ie. Emma Stone and Jordin Sparks)

VYT does NOT charge families for participation (ie no selling tickets and no buying costumes)

Participants receive a professional acting experience (ie professional props, costumes, and platforms that include the Herberger) in a safe environment

African American youth that are artists may experience difficulties breaking into the acting arena beyond a school or community-based event. Valley Youth Theater is an excellent starting place for those seeking a professional experience without the added cost.

525 North First Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004

(602) 253 – 8188


Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP)

The Tuskegee Airman will always hold a special place of honor in America’s history of aviation. OBAP seeks to ensure that African American youth continue to have access to opportunities for entry and advancement in this field. In addition to having a variety of programs that target youth, OBAP will be holding a week-long summer program here in Phoenix, AZ (Aerospace Career Education (ACE) Academy), exposing middle and high school youth to the diverse world of aviation.


Vanguard Initiative

After learning about this program, I immediately thought “I wish I knew about this when my kids were young”.  Vanguard’s mission is simple and powerful: “enhancing young lives through recreation”. When I learned they do this through Olympic level training in Archery, I understood how they would meet their goals. As a teacher, I have taken my students camping several times and they always want one experience hands down: archery. I must admit, it is a powerful exercise that demands self-control, precision, purposefulness, power, and mentorship. If you can get your child to this one, do it.

315 W Elliot Rd

Ste 107-167

Tempe, AZ 85284



Yolanda Wheelington

Phoenix, Arizona

Yolanda has taught for the past 7 years in the Phoenix Elementary School District. Her passion for developing and supporting the human potential is evident in the cross-curricular work done her classroom. She is a member of the Association Montessori International and is a RODEL Scholar. Yolanda earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology from The Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.), a Master’s in Social Work and a Master’s in Education (Special Education) from Arizona State University, and a diploma in Lower Elementary Education for ages 6-12 from the Montessori Institute of North Texas.

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Comments 6

  1. Treva Jenkins

    Thank you for sharing this information. I definitely will pass it on. I just attended the NTC 21st Annual Symposium – Converge: Rising Together for Student Success…focusing on equitable, quality education for our children. Many of the speakers and workshops focused on the inequities in education for our African American and Hispanic and Native American children. Very powerful this year!! My preconference workshop was “How Educators of Color Can Use Racial Affinity-Based Professional Development for Transformation”. Many takeaways…including how African American teachers need to start working together to share resources and create safe spaces to talk about race and biases in the our school, but also forming alliances with all nationalities to build a community where our African American children can be successful. Micia Mosely, Ph.D., Director was the facilitator. As part of her Black Teacher Project, she shared that when working for transformation, we must make meaning alone, in affinity, and in alliance across differences.

    1. Yolanda Wheelington

      Thank you for sharing YOUR information! I am at a point where I am tired of the hit and miss, find it for yourself approach I always have to take to find resources for our children. On the same note, it is just as bad for Black educators. I think it is time we push to develop sustainable resources that make since. If it’s ok, I will keep you posted as I am thinking that the first step will be a resource and a review of what has already been done, what we have, and what we need.

  2. Beth Maloney

    Yolanda, I love the points you make in this post. This is a discussion we must keep having. Thank you for sharing the resources. I look forward to hearing the academic information when you receive it.

    1. Yolanda Wheelington

      Thanks! I am thinking that it is time for a more structured resource/system/entity that can be a better support for African American students, teachers, and parents. I am thinking the first step will be a “think tank” type of gathering to assess what we have already done, what we have, and what we need. I really do not know where to start with it, so I guess I will start where I am at.

  3. Mike Vargas

    Yolanda I loved this blog post. I agree there needs to be more data collected on the demographics of our student populations. I am hopeful that with the changes at the dept of ed, there will be people finally able to gather data on these types of issues. I have already looked into the ACE academy for some of my students. I am hoping they will be able to make it in June.

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