More than 20 percent of black males drop out of school in Mississippi, according to the state department of education, even though the dropout rate for all students has declined from 18 percent to 14 percent.
A Jackson-based organization called Leadership-Next Generation Plus works to help students succeed through academic and leadership programs.
Dr. Martha Alexander is the organization's executive officer. She said many people don't expect much from black males.
"There’s an expectation that they are going to do poorly, that they are going to do bad and so they live it out," Alexander said. "They are in a vicious cycle in which most often there is very little room for return."
Cassio Batteast is executive director of K.I.N.G.S. Leadership Institute. He said his program prepares black males to take responsibility for their academic success.
"We have programming that actual deals with every level of our students," Batteast said. "We don't just deal with mentoring, because what is mentoring if you're not getting any academic assistance, but functional programming."
Fifteen-year-old George Jones is a student in the K.I.N.G.S. program. He grew up in West Jackson and is now a freshman at Germantown High School in Madison County. He said his mentor, Batteast, is like a father figure to him.
"Having that support can get you through any hard time," Jones said. "When you don't have anyone you feel like you can't do it. When you have somebody there telling you that you can do it, helps you go a long way."
Alexander and Batteast hope to convince residents to work with organizations like theirs to help black males succeed.