Julie Tam, NBC 5 News
The school district has launched a program to close the achievement gap between black female students and other groups.
The Dallas school district is taking action to tackle under-performing students.
The district launched a program Saturday to help black girls struggling in class or at home and held a kickoff event at The Black Academy of Arts and Letters in downtown Dallas.
Students revealed what holds them back.
"They don't have role models to tell them, 'Hey, I was good at math. I was good at science,'" said one girl at an open microphone in the auditorium.
"Some teachers don't want us in their class because they don't understand where we come from and the way that we live," said another girl.
Raj Evans, a fifth-grader at Blanton Elementary School, said friends, a bad focus and parents who don't teach them at home also can hold students back.
The Dallas Independent School District said black girls in its schools lag behind other groups and are not improving fast enough.
Because of that, the district started the African-American Female Success Initiative, modeled after the program for black boys.
Teachers and counselors will work with girls in the fourth through 12th grades to help them succeed. Mentors will take the girls on field trips to museums and colleges and to watch plays, as well as give back to the community through volunteering.
"We are told that, 'You can't do it,'" said Staci Brundage, a senior at Lincoln High School. "To have something that's empowering and encouraging for us is really great."
The kickoff event aimed to get the girls motivated through song and dance and encouragement.
"I encourage you to keep trying just like I did, because you can achieve it," said Ocielia Gibson, Miss Black USA.
Next April, the girls will present results from their service projects at the festival for Earth Day Dallas, the main sponsor of the new initiative.