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Black Star

Phillip Jackson discusses the founding of The Black Star Project

Phillip JacksonPhillip Jackson is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts in Educational Excellence for African Americans.

The Black Star Project was founded in 1996 as a 501(c)(3) organization designed to eliminate the racial academic achievement gap among Black, Latino, White, and Asian students. It is now committed to creating a globally-competitive education for all children in Chicago, and to influencing others around the country to do the same. From its humble beginnings in 1996 with one staff member working with three schools, The Black Star Project employed nearly 200 people (including full- and part-time staff, interns and consultants) in 2012 and works with thousands of schools with its various programs, campaigns, and initiatives. In the Chicago area, its efforts have touched the lives of nearly 300,000 students and parents since 1996.

The Black Star Project’s flagship program is the Student Motivation/Mentoring Program, which sends medical, legal, financial, and other professionals into Chicago schools each day of the school year to inspire, motivate, nurture, and guide youth toward their future roles in society and to encourage them to do well in school in order to improve themselves, their families and our country. Last year, this program served 14,000 youth in 65 schools.

The Black Star Project’s best nationally-known program is the Million Father March. For the past two years, one million fathers across America have taken their children to school on their cities’ first school day. When fathers are involved in their children’s education, children maintain better attendance, gain higher test scores, earn better grades, and are more likely to graduate from high school. Additionally, they are less likely to be suspended, expelled, involved in fights or bullying, become involved with gangs and drugs, or have children prematurely. More than 800 American cities have participated in the Million Father March since its inception in 2004. Last year, the largest March activity occurred in Broward County Florida, where more than 39,000 fathers took their children to school on the first day.

We cannot fix the most pressing internal problems of America, until we fix the problems of parents, families and communities in America. The Black Star Project has created the Toyota/Black Star Parent University, one of the largest and most comprehensive efforts in this country to teach parents to be effective. Thousands of parents have participated in nearly 600 parenting courses designed and facilitated to help them improve parenting skills and to share tips, techniques and general information to help parents responsibly manage their families, including becoming active in ways that improve their communities. These courses are facilitated by specially-trained, parent-friendly professors and are offered in schools, churches, libraries, park district facilities and other community centers. We don’t wait for parents to come to us, we go to them. Good parents generate better families and communities, which produce more academically capable, socially-balanced and better-prepared students for our schools, and better citizens for our society.

And finally, our newest program which is having a profound impact on education in Chicago is the Saturday University. These free community-driven, community-operated learning centers help guarantee that children will have the basic academic skills needed for success in school and in life. In Chicago, The Black Star Project operates 20 Saturday University sites for 350 students in churches, schools, community centers, park district facilities and even one in a police station. These once-a-week learning opportunities maintain a small 1 to 6 teacher/student ratio to enhance and accelerate their focus on reading, writing and math. The Black Star Project staff and volunteers also mentor all of our students. Organizations in at least 15 other cities in the United States have asked for information to start their own Saturday University.

He is founder and executive director of The Black Star Project