“Five years ago I had two African American students come into my office to talk about the achievement gap. They challenged me, and felt that they would have worked harder if they had known about the gap,” said Dr. Jon Clark.
“I talked with Dr. Yeggins and others about what we could do, and we developed a program,” he said.
The first of its kind, the Webster Challenge was created with the goal of closing the achievement gap between African American and Caucasian students by 50 percent in 2012. So far, the GPA gap has been closed by 39 percent, 20 percent more than the total African American population’s reduction in gap without the Webster Challenge.
Over 30 teachers, administrators and coaches are mentors for the Webster Challenge program. At the beginning of each semester, mentors sit down with students participating in the Webster Challenge to set goals for their attendance, GPA and extra curriculars. Mentors then check up on students every three weeks.
“It’s definitely effective,” said senior Nubari Kanee, who has been involved with the Webster Challenge since her sophomore year. “Mentors are good at staying on top of students and are always encouraging them to succeed.”
“The number of kids that are coming forward and want to be involved is much larger than it was five years ago,” said Dr. Clark.
The initiative, which started with just 30 students, now boasts over 200 students who have taken on the challenge.
“The Webster Challenge experience has been so beneficial for me. I feel that if it hadn’t been for them I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Class of 2012 graduate Skyla Yokley said. Now a student at Alabama State University, Yokley was a pioneer of the Webster Challenge initiative.
Class of 2012 Webster Challenge students earned $1.5 million in scholarships.
“It’s helped me in so many ways. In high school, it always provided me with a support system and I always had a helping hand to guide me,” Yokley said. “It also gave me a great way to help me voice my opinions, help others and help myself here at college.”
The Webster Challenge has reduced the gap in attendance by 85 percent among participants, and the number of Fs by 79 percent.
“Everything takes time, foundations need to be built and continued,” said Kanee. “It takes time for things to change. We’re seeing improvement, but we have to keep going. It needs to be pushed more on the students. We need to get them more involved.”