Swimming against the tide: A study of a youth enrichment program seeking to empower inner-city Black youth

Jayne A Klein, Florida International University


Serious inequities in our K-12 public education system, particularly in regard to the quality of education in predominately Black inner-city schools, are well-documented in the literature (Freeman, 1998; Ross, 1998). Moreover, there is general agreement that the most effective means of ameliorating that situation is through well-thought-out after-school programs and partnership initiatives (Beck, 1993; Gardner et al., 2001). The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the programmatic interventions of a youth enrichment program for inner-city Black youth currently in place at the Overtown Youth Center (OYC) in Miami, Florida, in order to: (a) discern those factors that support its claim that it is making a difference in students’ lives, (b) explore how any such factors are implemented, and (c) determine whether its interventions have served to equalize the playing field for these youth. Two primary methods of data collection were used for this study. The first was participant observation conducted over the course of two years through a partnership initiative established and led by this author. The second was through in-depth interviews of the Center’s founder, staff, and students. Secondary methods used were the recording of informal conversations and the analysis of written documents. Analysis of the data yielded four features of the Center that are indispensible to the students’ growth. The center provides the youth with (a) physical and psychological safety, (b) supportive relationships, (c) exposure to cultural and educational opportunities, and (d) assistance in building self-esteem. The most significant finding of the study was that OYC has been successful at making a difference in students’ lives and at increasing their aspirations to attend college. By addressing the full spectrum of their needs, the Center has given them many of the necessary tools with which to compete and thereby helped equalize their opportunities to succeed in school and in life. The study also noted a number of challenges for the Center to examine. The main issues that need to be addressed more seriously are staff turnover, staff indifference, nepotism, inconsistent student attendance, and insufficient focus on racial issues and African-American-centered education. Meeting those challenges would engender even greater positive outcomes.

Subject Area

African American Studies|Black studies|Higher Education Administration|Education Policy|School administration

Recommended Citation

Klein, Jayne A, "Swimming against the tide: A study of a youth enrichment program seeking to empower inner-city Black youth" (2011). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3502112.