Story and slideshow by Jo Mathis/ AAPS District News
The Ann Arbor Branch of the NAACP honored 168 AAPS high school students at its annual Freedom Fund Dinner on Sunday, Nov. 1 at the Ann Arbor Sheraton Hotel.
“Pursuing Liberty in the Face of Injustice” was the theme of the evening, which raised money for the Freedom Fund Scholarship program. All money goes to projects and programs, primarily for Ann Arbor youth. There are no administration fees.
“The total of 168 students is something that we are extremely proud of, not for ourselves but for the student scholars themselves,” said NAACP Ann Arbor Chapter President William V. Hampton. “This excellence which they have achieved is a result of hard work and concentration by them, the involvement of loving parents and/or caregivers, and the commitment of outstanding educators.”
Each of the scholars had a grade point average of at least 3.2 during the last academic school year.
Ibrahim Kromah, a junior at Skyline High School, said he was happy to be honored for the second consecutive year.
“I feel I’m showing the young generation how to be in society,” said Ibrahim. “You should be the best you can everywhere you are, and whenever you can.”
Ibrahim, who wants to be a software engineer one day and possibly code at Google, said he tries to get straight A’s.
“But sometimes I get B-plusses,” he said, “and it makes me so mad!”
Keynote speaker Rodd L. Monts, field director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, spoke to the crowd about the impact of school discipline in pushing students into the criminal justice system. He said discipline policies in some schools across the country have negative implications for students of color, those with disabilities, and those of low income.
He said at the state level, there must be a narrowing of the offenses that lead to expulsion or suspension, and in the schools, more use of alternative discipline strategies.
Monts said that when he took on his job five years ago, he talked with AAPS trustees and administrators about expulsions and suspensions. The district was responsive to recommendations, and committed to reducing suspensions overall, and to addressing the disproportionate suspension of African American students, he said.
Monts said he was pleased recently to learn that AAPS suspensions are significantly down in part because of new alternative discipline strategies such as Restorative Justice and peer mentors.
“Disproportionality still exists, but they are mindul of that and are going to be more attentive to that going forward,” he said. “So that is something they should be commended for.”
Monts said he wanted to encourage the students to be mindful of their freedoms and their rights; and to demand them without being discouraged by recent headlines involving violent or fatal interactions with law enforcement.
“It comes with a cost,” he said. “There should be respect for authority. We’re a nation of laws at the end of the day. But I think our young people should understand what their liberties and rights are, to be respectful of authority, and to demand justice when they’re faced with injustice.”
The 2015 NAACP Community Area Leadership Scholarship Recipient, 2014 Skyline High School graduate Azira Azizuddin-McCloud, is now a freshman at Howard University.