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There are a lot of negative stories out there about minority males, but there are also a lot of two-year colleges working to change that.
“It’s time we told their story,” said Kevin Christian, senior program associate for diversity, inclusion and equity at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), who is lead on a year-old AACC project to capture those stories.
The Minority Male Student Success Database allows program directors and other administrators at community colleges from across the country to upload information about programs and initiatives at their institutions that are working to help and retain minority male students.
Christian noted that minority males face many obstacles—finances, stereotypes and a lack of mentors, to name a few. Those who go to college need to connect with someone early or they may get lost, he said.
That’s what many of the programs in the database are striving to do: Connect with the minority male student population. It’s the only database that houses this kind of information from two-year colleges.
To date, information from 61 colleges has been uploaded. There isn’t room for every success story from every program to be told, but the database does give a snapshot of the steps colleges are taking to help minority male students.
Impacting students statewide
Several of the colleges in the database are in the North Carolina system, which in 2003 launched its Minority Male Mentoring (3M) program. Forty-one community colleges in the state now operate the program, each with its own “flavor.”
The goal of 3M is to raise retention and graduation rates for minority males, but it is doing more than that, said Scott Ralls, president of the North Carolina Community College System. Students acquire leadership and academic skills and encouragement to continue their education at four-year colleges.
Not only are students in the program mentored, but they later serve as mentors themselves and as program recruiters. Some even now work part-time for the program.
Ralls knows the impact 3M is making. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence. He recently received a call from an excited program participant who was accepted at a four-year college.
While the program’s structure and funding are important, it’s the people who make the program, Ralls said.
“It’s the people who drive the process,” he said. “And with community colleges, it’s not too difficult to find caring people who are motivated to help students succeed.”
Helping students to own their education
At Capital Community College (CCC) in Connecticut, the Black and Latino Male Resource Center opened in 2007 after data showed that retention rates were slipping for minority males.
“We saw some things glaring at us, and we didn’t like what we saw,” said Lester Primus, CCC’s dean of administration.
The center, which serves about 200 students a semester, offers tutoring, counseling, college and career preparation assistance, as well as leadership development opportunities. It also gives students a place to talk about outside issues affecting their lives.
Carlos Soler, the center’s coordinator, said it’s a holistic approach to helping students. It appears to be working. Semester-to-semester retention rates for minority males at CCC have increased. That’s not only a success story for the center, but for the college, noted Primus.
There are many personal successes, too. Soler worked with a student who had been expelled from a four-year college. The student enrolled at CCC and was just “bumping into things,” Soler said.
Through the center, the student found a job, got involved in student government and took ownership of his education. He graduated from CCC, went on to a four-year college and is now preparing to go to graduate school.
With information about CCC’s center in the AACC database, other colleges looking to develop or revamp their minority male program can find inspiration, contacts and resources from other colleges.
For Soler, the AACC database gives him a chance to see how CCC’s program compares with other college’s programs and what they can do to continually improve it.
Passion fuels QUEST
The AACC database is helping people and institutions see that, with passion, minority male programs can be successful, said Ja Hon Vance, executive director of the QUEST program at Maryland’s Baltimore City Community College.
“It’s so important that other people working in the field can see that,” Vance said.
Passion is what’s running QUEST, a program that uses a cohort model and custom-tailored classes to help African-American males earn associate degrees in one year. In 2008, QUEST served its first cohort—a group of six students. They all graduated in 2009 with a 3.1 grade-point average or higher. Five of the men are now at universities, and one has steady employment.
Currently, 100 students are enrolled in QUEST. The high enrollment comes from grassroots recruitment, and the high semester-to-semester retention rate can be attributed to “boundless enthusiasm for the students,” Vance said.
“We really care about the students, and the students know that,” he said.
QUEST doesn’t just provide the men academic skills, either. Vance has infused etiquette into the program. He wants the men to know the proper way to treat a woman and how to appreciate theater, and how to dine at an upscale restaurant.
And it’s all run on a zero-dollar budget.
Vance gets phone calls and e-mails weekly from other colleges, wanting to capture that same success. The database is one reason that he’s fielding so many calls.
“It’s helping people to connect,” he said of the database.
Christian knows there are more programs out there, with more success stories like these. His goal this year is to have at least 100 programs uploaded to the database, and possibly publish the information.
Whether the programs are serving one student or 1,000, the goal is to bring these positive stories light, Christian said.
Copyright ©2014 American Association of Community Colleges