AURORA — About 100 African American male teenagers from Hinkley High School gathered at a church, just a stone’s throw away from their campus, Friday to discuss what it takes to be successful in today’s society.

The first African American Male Empowerment Summit was organized by Hinkley teachers and mentors. Students worked with African American business and community leaders throughout the day. They talked about how to overcome obstacles, how to set goals, and what sorts of programs or services the school could offer to improve their school experiences.

In Aurora and across the nation, African American males are more likely to fall behind academically, be suspended, and drop out than their white peers.

For example, 37 percent of Aurora’s African American male third graders were reading at or above grade level last year, according to state test results. That’s compared to the 67 percent of white male third graders who were reading at grade level last year.

African American males last year in Aurora were suspended at slightly more than twice the rate as their white peers — 22 percent to 9 percent.

The event also featured Jameel Mallory, a Hinkley alum, who went from being a successful high school football player to gang member and alcoholic. Mallory is now sober and a research assistant for the University of Colorado’s Department of Family Medicine.

“As an African American male, you know how much pressure there is for you to do the right thing — or the wrong thing,” he said.

At the summit, Chalkbeat asked three students about that pressure. Listen to the clips below.

Kelsey Williams, senior

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Armand Green, junior

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PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia

Kason Hill, junior

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PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia