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Image by Shawnee D


Why identity matters

Identity describes one’s sense of self and how one defines themselves in terms of values, beliefs, and role in the world. Our self-identity in adolescence forms the basis of our self-esteem later in life. Though teenagers have some control over their identity development, their identities are also influenced by external factors, including peers, family, school, ethnic identity, media and other social environments. For Black youth, questions about identity are compounded by issues related to race and ethnicity. Most descendants of enslaved people have little or no connection to their ancestral heritage before the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Studies have shown that programs for Black students that teach Black culture and instill cultural pride yield promising outcomes. Stanford University researchers studied a special class for Black teenage boys in Oakland, California, called the Manhood Development Program. They reported that Black boys were less likely to drop out of high school if the class was offered at their school. In a high school with 60 Black boys in ninth grade, on average only three students dropped out as opposed to five students in schools that did not provide the course. Between the graduating classes of 2010 and 2018, the high school graduation rate for Black boys in Oakland schools increased from 46% to 69%.

An evidence-based model



ALI integrates the five core competencies of social and emotional learning, as defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL):

  1. Self-awareness

  2. Self-management

  3. Responsible decision making

  4. Relationship skills

  5. Social awareness

ALI aims to transform how African American youth experience their world by first transforming how they experience themselves. ALI’s three-part program supports teen identity development by helping them explore three questions that are critical to identity formation:

  1. Where do I come from?

  2. Where am I now?

  3. Where can I grow from here?

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