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Dwight Roberson initially went to Oregon to play football, but he is now being credited by the Salem-Keizer School District, and administrators for the highest graduation rate of Black students in at least a decade.

Roberson’s day-to-day influences are to “serve as a role model, cheerleader, coach and all-around helper for black students who might need support,” and he looks after nearly 400 Black students at every high school in Salem-Keizer, although some schools require more attention than others.

He also keeps an eye on students’ missing assignments, grades, schedule changes, and if they are on the right track to graduate.

“If I’m driving and I see one of my students walking, they definitely get picked up and taken to school,” he told the Salem Reporter.

If he notices a student missing classes, the former New Orleans Saints linebacker may pay them a visit at home to connect with them one on one.

According to reports, 40 percent of Salem-Keizer students are Latino, just shy of 50 percent are white, and only 1 percent are Black.

Roberson focuses most of his attention on McKay High School and North High, which have the most Black students attending either schools in the entire district.

“When students of color have teachers of color, in addition, both students of color and white students report having positive perceptions of their teachers of color, including feeling cared for and academically challenged,” Desiree Carver-Thomas, a researcher at the Learning Policy Institute, said.

Roberson also receives high praise for starting Black Student Union clubs at every high school so that students can gather to learn about Black history and other role models who look like them.

Reports as early as 2009 show that between 50 and 60 percent of Black high school seniors graduate on time, but as of 2019 the graduation rate increased to 70% with 32 out of 50 of the district’s Black seniors earning either a standard or alternate high school diploma.

High school graduation is just around the corner and both Roberson and the Salem-Keizer School District hope to keep making progress for years to come.

Former New Orleans Saints Linebacker Boosts Graduation Rate For Oregon District’s Black Students  was originally published on