Black Male Rising: Ohio's Bevy of Education Initiatives Takes Aim at Helping African-American Male Students Succeed

Article excerpt

When Aaron Hatchett arrived at The Ohio State University as a freshman in the fall of 2006, he wasn't sure what the future held for him. The nation s largest campus was daunting. Hatchett had no idea how he was going to pay for his education or what career he would pursue. He just knew he wanted to obtain a degree and make a better life for himself. Now, nearly four years later, Hatchett is preparing to graduate with a degree in psychology and comparative cultural studies, and with a minor in public policy. He plans to go to graduate school for education and social policy, with the goal of working for the Department of Education in its social welfare program.

Hatchett credits the programs and staff at the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center for the African American Male at OSU for guiding and motivating him to focus and find academic success. The center first contacted him before his freshman year and invited him to attend its Early Arrival program, which it designed to acclimate African-American males to OSU. (African-American males comprise 6.2 percent of the school's population.)

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"The Early Arrival program was one of the most influential moments of my life," says Hatchett. "The resource center takes anxiety away from being a student. The center staff gave me then, and continued to give me, resources going forward, so that I could have a life and focus on being a student, knowing that for any issue or problem I had in the future, they would be there to talk to about it and help me through it."

The Bell Resource Center is just one of several initiatives that help African-American men succeed in Ohio. All the programs focus on individual needs, individual achievement, positive role modeling and the acquisition of leadership skills.

The center was founded in 2004 as the African-American Resource Center out of a growing concern over the retention rate of Black male students at OSU, which was well below that of the general student population. Bell, a former All-American defensive back at OSU, had a "deep concern for the plight of African-American males," says the center's director, Dr. James L. Moore III. Bell worked in the Office of Minority Affairs after his pro football career and saw a growing need to provide a stronger support network for Black males at OSU. After Bell's death from heart disease in 2005, the center was named after him.

Since the center's founding, the retention rate of Black male students has risen considerably. In 2003, the year before the center was formed, the retention rate for Black males at the Columbus campus was 80.7 percent. In 2008, the retention rate reached 89.3 percent, on par with that of OSU's general student population at 92.8 percent.

"I would argue that we have one of the highest retention rates for a public institution in the country among African-American males," says Moore.

"Too often students feel like a number. We created an inviting environment," Moore continues. "We are constantly trying to connect students with luminaries in the community and on campus and provide ongoing professional development and supplemental experiences designed to help students obtain internships and personal networks for the future."

Says DeWayne Williams, a fourth-year psychology major with a minor in neuroscience, "The programs at the center have taught me so many things, such as what a Black man should really be like, as well as motivated me to keep pushing myself academically, so I can be successful in the future. My experience with the center made me believe that I could achieve my goals and gave me that mindset to achieve."

The center presents networking and educational programs throughout the year, including the Gathering of Men, where Black faculty, staff and students gather to hear presentations by guest speakers, and the African-American Male Retreat, where students attend research workshops on such topics as time management and financial management. …