Youth Achievement

Milwaukee, WI
United States

Black and Latino Male Achievement Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, City Year Kellogg PEAK Initiative, Lead2Change MENTOR Greater Milwaukee, Milwaukee Succeeds PEARLS for Teen Girls
Social media handle(s)
@datayoucanuse (Instagram), @DataYouCanUse (Facebook, LinkedIn)

Collected and analyzed data on Black youth achievement in Milwaukee to support community advocacy for more resources in Black neighborhoods.

Milwaukee consistently remains one of the most segregated cities in the United States due to the history of redlining and systemic disinvestment in Black neighborhoods. This segregation contributes to racial inequities in health, education, and employment outcomes. Black youth often experience the most significant effects, including a lack of resources and opportunities, which often result in an achievement gap compared to white youth. Though it is important to examine and address the systemic nature of these challenges and the resulting disparities, it is also critical to highlight how Black youth are excelling despite these barriers.

Through this project, Data You Can Use (DYCU) convened eight Milwaukee nonprofit organizations that work with Black youth to organize Data Chats—small, community conversations about data designed to draw out residents’ perspectives and interpretations. These Data Chats provided a two-way learning platform for researchers and local youth stakeholders to review Black youth achievement data together and build a shared understanding about how to interpret the data. Each of the eight nonprofit partners received a grant to support their work to convene their community to participate in the Data Chats, which attracted a diverse set of youth stakeholders, including parents and alumni of Milwaukee youth programs and initiatives.

DYCU presented Black youth achievement data at each Data Chat and facilitated conversations with participants. For example, in Milwaukee between 2018 and 2021, the number of Black students participating in Career Technical Education programs more than tripled. Data Chat participants shared that they have been actively promoting Career Technical Education programs. They also noted that many of the young people they work with who graduated from high school during the COVID-19 pandemic showed little interest in pursuing further education. Instead, they found trades to be an appealing option for starting their careers.

Data also revealed that the mental health of students in Wisconsin has gotten worse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as reflected in metrics like mental illness and feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Data Chat participants shared that in their experience, health care systems lack cultural competency for dealing with mental health problems among Black youth, and youth want support to address their mental health challenges but there are not enough resources dedicated to this.

During the Data Chats, participants also discussed narratives that harm Black youth. One participant shared that “The things we say about our zip codes needs to stop, for example, saying a zip code is the most incarcerated zip code. What does that do if you are a kid growing up in that zip code? How does that make you feel?” Participants also discussed the need for different ways to talk about achievement. One person shared that one day they experienced gun violence on the way to high school in the morning, and that he was shaken up, but made it to school. He shared that showing up needs to be celebrated more, and that it’s a form of leadership to show up when you are scared and overwhelmed.

DYCU is working to develop and release a report that summarizes the data that was shared at the Data Chats, feedback and ideas from Data Chat participants, and recommendations for how Milwaukee can better support and invest in Black youth achievement. DYCU will also continue to work with the eight partners from this Data Chat project, with plans to reconvene them in fall 2023.