Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Reason to Hope

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Reason to Hope

Article excerpt

Mentoring programs prove a crucial resource in minority male student success.

The numbers are staggering. According to a recent study by the Schott Foundation based on the 20072008 national cohort of high school students, fewer than half of African-American males graduate with their peers. The top 10 lowest-performing schools manage to graduate, at most, 28 percent of their Black males. Accordingly, the foundation suggests that we are failing young African-American males.

My hometown is among the communities with the lowest-performing schools. Milwaukee - where 75 percent of Black male eighth-graders read below grade level - graduates only 40 percent of its African-American students. Of my high school class of 900, only 197 students graduated in four years. I was one of the few males of color who went on to college. I graduated near the top of my high school class and found myself at a small state school in the University of Wisconsin system.

I have had the opportunity to work with young African- American and Hispanic male college students for more than 10 years at Iowa State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and now at DePaul University. An overwhelming majority of these men came from some of the most underperforming public school systems in the country, such as those in Milwaukee and Chicago. Those men of color who reach college are often seen as anomalies. They have risen above the broken system, managing to slip up the cracks to find themselves on college campuses. If I take a moment to explore the stories of those young men who matriculate into higher education, I find more than failure. I find hope.

Countless African- Am erica n and Hispanic men who come from lowperforming neighborhoods succeed in college and have gone on to become activists or organizers in urban environments. Some have become educators in the neighborhoods in which they grew up, and others have become business professionals or leaders of nonprofit organizations who give back by creating scholarships and sharing their experience.

Many have found their way thanks to programs that cater to them and their needs. I recently met a young Black man from one of Chicago's lowest -performing neighborhoods, North Lawn dale. Statistically speaking, he should not have graduated from high school, let alone college. The statistics for his particular neighborhood suggest that he should have been in jail by now. He did graduate from high school and college and is now back Ln that same neighborhood as a DePaul alum, working with other young Black males through the Young Men's Educational Network (YMEN). …

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