Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Young Black Men Speak on College & Life

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Young Black Men Speak on College & Life

Article excerpt

Black Issues In Higher Education talks to four young Black men who are currently attending college at campuses across the United States. Their educational, family and cultural backgrounds are diverse but their desire to advance themselves with a college education places them on a common mission.


From age 7 to when he turned 16, Kenyad Atenga watched his mother successfully juggle work, college and graduate school to eventually earn a master's degree. When it came time for Atenga to consider college, he came to feel that he was floundering academically and knew that he could do better.

While his mother attended school, Atenga stayed with his grandmother who lived in a working-class neighborhood in south central Los Angeles. It was there that Atenga got exposure to the notorious gang life that's vividly portrayed in movies and gangster rap music. After a friend of his got shot, Atenga withdrew from the gang scene altogether and began to seriously worry about his future.

His mother's insistence that Atenga focus on getting into a four-year institution led him to abandon the idea of attending a junior college to play football. Even though he was later recruited by four-year Division I-A football institutions, Atenga decided to focus exclusively on academics and not worry about attaining a football scholarship.

A college junior now, Atenga settled on San Francisco State University where he is an international relations major and a computer science minor. He cites the presence of Black student organizations for providing him with the help he needed to be knowledgeable about the university and to meet all his academic requirements. In the following passage, Atenga discusses what motivated him to go to college and the unity among Black males on his campus.


Kenyad Atenga: I decided that I was really going to college spring semester of my 12th-grade year. There were so many elements that influenced me but the two that stick in my head the most are my mother and my environment. These two things pushed me the hardest to make a decision to pursue higher education. I guess in many ways, my mother was a very good role model by her own actions in obtaining a college diploma when I was younger. Thus, watching my mom go through the steps kind of gave me a little ambition to take the next step after high school.

Secondly, my environment gave me ambition to go to school. At that particular time I felt as though there wasn't anything for me in L.A. and something was driving me to get out. It seemed as though the people around me were pretty ambivalent about their futures and had the burden of the inner-city life on their shoulders as well.


There is a bit of unity among Black males on my campus. I feel we all have a mutual respect for one another. We all might not be in the same social crowd but for the most part we speak to one another. When you speak of unity, I'm thinking on a revolutionary scale. However, I think most of all we have a functional Black male campus community.


It seemed obvious to James Joyce, a junior journalism major at Ohio University, that attending college would represent a sure ticket to a rewarding career and a solid upper middle-class life.

Despite growing up in modest circumstances in Westminster, Md., a suburban bedroom community of Baltimore, Joyce says he found plenty of inspiration from his single mother and a few Black people in his overwhelmingly White community. Accorded respect by his Black male peers in high school, Joyce was dubbed the "protester" because of his assertiveness and willingness to probe and question authority.

Joyce's desire to leave Maryland, study journalism and pursue a college track-track-and-field career led him to the Athens, Ohio, public university. Joyce credits his mother for being supportive of his desire to attend an out-of-state institution despite the financial strain it has placed on him and his family. …

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