Written by: Howard Finney, Executive Dean, Division of Business and Public Service, Manasseh Lee, Faculty Advisor, El Centro Community College, Dallas, TX and Myra Silverman, MCNC
At the July 2011 MCNC Summer Conference, Dean Howard Finney, facilitated a workshop on Minority Males – Challenges, Opportunities, and Response. This session acknowledged the fact that minority males have had a historically lower rate of college completion than their female counterparts or white and Asian males. One reference used was The Trouble with Black Boys, by Pedro Noguera. Dean Finney pointed out some of the issues the author asserts
are facing these students, particularly in adolescence. “Many are trapped by stereotypes and they let these pull them down. Society considers Black or Brown to be less than. Racial identity takes on significance with respect to friendships groups and dating. High achieving students may be ostracized from their friends. The assumption in school is that if you’re white or Asian you’ll do better than if you’re Black or Latino.” Marsha Jackson, Associate Vice President at Erie Community College, Buffalo NY and McKinley Williams, President Contra Costa College, San Pablo, CA: shared similar experiences on their campuses. Minority males often have the lowest rates of literacy and therefore graduation. They feel misunderstood and want people to know they take education seriously, but they don’t really know what you have to do to be taken seriously. What are the rules for becoming a success? Students come to the college who don’t understand the issues they are bringing with them. Minority males need some affirmation. They realize education is important but there are many stumbling blocks.
“The Brother to Brother program has become one of my irreplaceable resources. I am a first generation college student and I didn’t know the first thing about coping or dealing with issues associated with pursuing my college diploma.”
During the session, those in attendance shared some successful strategies. They stressed the importance of consistency. In working with students, it is important to be aware of, understand, and debunk racial stereotypes by assigning students to work with students of different races and ethnicities. Empower those with the problems to work toward solutions. Place students in settings that they might not commonly be: debate teams, journalism, service learning. Incorporate elements of their culture into the curriculum and have conversations that push them beyond their own comfort zone. Map out time management, showing students how much time they have. Dean Finney recalled a City Council member talking about the small ways that he noticed that people react to young African American men. One was the issue of dress. He suggested that one day a week students could meet with mentors. They could show students how to tie a tie, dress up, and sharpen their image. He suggested that students talk to faculty members until they felt comfortable. He asked the faculty to try to make themselves more visible.
Brother to Brother
El Centro Community College has developed Brother to Brother, a program that has begun to turn around negative results. During the spring of 2005, the college Vice President of Instruction and the Executive Dean of Business and Public Service noticed that about 70 percent of our African American population was female and only about 30 percent male. Of that 30 percent, only about 10 percent were completing their certificates and graduating. Several members of our staff, including the president of the college, faculty and staff members (all of whom were African American men) put their heads and hearts together and started a very successful outreach program to our registered young men.
“I turned to Brother to Brother for moral support and positive motivation as well as a feeling of welcome and belonging.”
First, we had our research office send us a list of all of the men who identified themselves as African American students. We then sent a letter, signed by the President of the college inviting them to come and to meet some of the African American men on staff who wanted to serve as mentors for them and to assist them with any problems that they might have in completing their goals. The college provided nice surroundings for meetings. In order to get them to come, we had food, door prizes, and a very informal agenda planned. At the initial meeting, we had about 75 students attend. The staff members included the campus police, financial aid officers, human resources, health center and facilities staff, faculty, and administrators.
Out of that meeting the following goals were established:
- To provide African American male students with an immediate support system to complete their educational goals
- To provide African American male students with opportunities and experiences that will build esteem and competence
- To increase communication between and among African American male students and staff at the College
- To create a community of scholars and practitioners among African American Administrators, Faculty and Staff who are willing to support and guide students at El Centro College
- To increase the number of African American men graduates and certificate completers
The mission of this group was to encourage academic excellence and success among the African American male students. We further sought to create lasting relationships and support networks among African American men students by bringing students, staff, faculty, and administrators together in a variety of programs and activities. After one semester of meetings, we had a 5% increase in students completing their graduation. We have seen an increase each semester since the program started. After we started the African American Male mentoring program, we soon saw the need to create one for Latino males. We began our
efforts by inviting all of the Latino male staff to come together to offer suggestions on how to remedy problems that Latino male students were facing. There was a good group of students who showed up for the first few meetings, but attendance began to drop off. So, we decided to merge the two groups and call our program the “Brother to Brother Minority Male Mentoring Program.” During the spring of 2009, the Dallas County Community College received a grant to assist with minority male mentoring. El Centro was one of the recipients. In the revamped program, student leaders were in charge of the activities and they elected officers and established weekly meetings. Eventually the students took over, decided on when to meet, identified issues, congratulated each other on accomplishments, elected their own officers, and counseled each other as to which teachers to take. The school year 2010-2011 was very successful for the group. They had consistent meetings and encouraged each other to complete their education. We have seen a huge increase in the number of male graduates and completers of programs. One of the things that we plan to do better is to track the number of students who take advantage of the program and to have the men to mentor the new students coming into El Centro.
For more information about the El Centro program, please contact administrative advisor, Howard Finney at 214-860-2201 or faculty advisor Manasseh Lee at 214-860-2638. An additional recommended resource is the October 2010, a Call for Change, published by the Council of Great City Schools.