Tradition of Excellence

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The first Black Male Baccalaureate Service honored the accomplishments of students

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It was a ceremony to congratulate recent high school graduates, but the first High School Black Male Baccalaureate Service also sent a deeper message.

Organizers intended it as a call to the community to show support for young men bucking long odds.

”We want to acknowledge black males for treading those 12 years of school and actually completing them,” said Willie Myles, organizer of the service and founder of Friends of Children in Lauderhill.

The service honored 25 black males from 15 different public and private high schools in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Myles said that noting their achievements is vital, particularly when faced with daunting numbers when it comes to black graduation rates.

”When you look at the numbers, 63 percent of black children do not graduate from high school, and 50 percent of black males do not graduate from high school nationally,” Myles said. “I think we have a major dilemma on our hands.”

The service was June 22 at the Sunrise Civic Center before hundreds of family members and friends.

Dwayne Brivitte was encouraged to attend by his mother, who heard an advertisement for the service on the radio.

He liked the idea of being a positive force in the call for change.

”I’m trying to get black men to stand up and be better for their communities and do something positive instead of going the other route,” said Dwayne, who graduated with a 3.03 grade-point average from Pompano Beach High School and is hoping to study hospitality management at Tallahassee Community College and Florida State University.

The service theme was continuing the black legacy. African kings adorned one page of the program.

A procession of elders in full graduation regalia walked in first and lit candles on stage.

”The candle represents light to lead our kids to excellence,” Myles said.

The graduates walked in to the Aretha Franklin hymn Young, Gifted and Black. With their fathers and other men from the community, they recommitted themselves to continuing education and excellence.

”It’s recognition of all black males, and I am a strong black male,” said Devon Rhodes, who graduated from Monarch High School in Coconut Creek with a 3.0 GPA.

After spending nine years in foster care, Devon will now go on to Broward Community College, where he hopes to study computers.

Myles wants the young men to understand they are not just being educated for themselves but also for those around them.

”I want to re-ignite a sense of community, a responsibility for community and to be of service to others,” Myles said.

Kraig Johnson graduated with a 4.1 GPA from Miami-Dade’s Southwest High. In the fall, he’s heading to Florida A&M University in Tallahassee to take part in a five-year MBA program. After that, he wants to attend law school and become a sports agent.

He was happy to be among the first two dozen graduates to take part in the celebratory service.

”It’s a good thing to see. Twenty-five people are a lot better than five people,” he said.

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