One of nine children and from a family of limited resources, HIP Enterprises, LLC Founder Herman I. Pryor Jr. didnt expect to go to college, but I knew I was smart, he told students attending the Men of Excellence luncheon at the College of Southern Maryland. Thirteen years ago, I sat in a room just like this as a community college student in a mentoring program for minority males never dreaming that one day I would be standing here before you, said Pryor who is a board licensed professional counselor, educational consultant and author who is completing a doctoral program in community college leadership.
Like the program that Pryor spoke of, CSMs Men of Excellence strives to improve recruitment, retention, graduation and transfer rates for African American males who enter the college as first-time, full- or part-time students.
Studies have shown that mentoring helps address the relatively low graduation rates among African-American male students. The CSM program prepares students to experience a greater level of academic success through workshops, mentoring, tutoring and leadership development opportunities, said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried.
The college has taken a proactive approach toward championing behind student success efforts aimed at eliminating the achievement gap and thereby improving graduation rates among students who are most at risk for non-completion due to a number of factors, said CSM Associate Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity Makeba Clay.
The Men of Excellence, in partnership with the colleges African American Student Success Initiative Committee, is showing signs of success with over a 100 percent growth in student members and 20 percent growth in mentors since it launched in 2013. It also boasts its first graduates earning associate degrees.
Mentoring and leadership programs for minorities are reversing a growing national trend of college success gaps for minority students. At CSM, Mentor Program Coordinator Evan Green is helping to guide a new generation of young men, many whose parents did not attend college. The biggest roadblocks that many of the men in Greens program face have nothing to do with academic ability, but rather navigating the components of college success such as meeting deadlines, understanding institutional policy and knowing who to turn to for help, according to Green.
In addition to workshops, a cornerstone of the program is connecting students with faculty and staff mentors who can provide guidance and support.
Torrence Thomas, of Waldorf, is a computer science major at CSM and attended the Men of Excellence Summer Academy before starting his freshman year last fall. Already a successful student, Thomas said that the guidance he received from attending the monthly meetings informed him on personal financial management and career options. He plans to transfer to University of Maryland or Towson University next year.
Kenneth Parker, of Waldorf, developed an interest in science when he took an AP biology course in high school. That interest led him to focus on a career in science and specifically a career in chemical engineering. This May he graduated with an associate degree in engineering with highest honors and he is transferring to the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. He and his mentor, Instructional Resource Coordinator Rose Marie Codling, met face-to-face throughout the semester to talk about how his classes were going. I had a handle on the academic side, but enjoyed hearing about her college experiences and what the transition to a large university might be like, said Parker.
Greens own journey provides a model for his students. Green said his dad presented him with the choice of three life courses: work, join the military or go to college. It was clear that each choice would require him to move out on his own.
College was the only option I ever considered, said Green, who added that his path to and through college was made easier by parents who were themselves college graduates and they shared with him the challenges he would face. Greens parents understood the trials and tribulations, ups and downs, and temptations he would face because they had been there, done that, years before.
Guidance either from parents or mentors with college experience is essential to success, said Green.
A Men of Excellence highlight of each semester that Green developed is a panel of successful African-American professionals.
I called it Black Male True Stories modeled on the True Hollywood Story [television] program. Its very rare that you hear stories of people who follow a straight linear path to where they found success, said Green about providing real-life success stories to the students in his program.
It was powerful for students to hear all the varying stories. One thing they heard over and over was, through planning and putting the right things in my life I was always ready for the next opportunity that came along, Green said about the panels message of building a strong foundation.
For the 2015-16 academic year Green wants to build the program to include more motivational speakers from the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines and create a theme for the academic year. This theme will be selected by the students during the Summer Academy and will act as a point of pride and be rallying cry for the men throughout the academic year. We also want to instill a sense of enthusiasm and motivation about their experiences at college and beyond, Green said.
At the conclusion of the Men of Excellence luncheon, Pryor told students that a turning point in his life came when he realized that even though he didnt see himself with a successful future, other people did. The person you are today will be different than who you become, said Pryor.
To view a gallery of the Men of Excellence luncheon and awards ceremony, visit http://csmphoto.zenfolio.com/15moe.
For information on the African American male leadership and mentoring program, Men of Excellence, visit http://www.csmd.edu/diversity/menofexcellence.htm.
Summer Academy Preps Students for Success from Day One
The College of Southern Marylands two-week Men of Excellence Summer Academy, Aug. 3-13, will provide incoming CSM African American and other underrepresented male students with an orientation to the college and its resources. Through student engagement, summer academic enrichment in mathematics and English, team building and leadership development prior to the beginning of the academic year, the academy provides a summer bridge experience designed to prepare incoming students for the social, emotional and academic rigors of CSM.
Summer bridge program such as this one are a great way for students to learn college level expectations, as well as provides students with a safe and welcoming environment to learn about the college and gives them a head start on meeting likeminded peers and making connections with individuals who will be essential to their academic success, said CSM Mentor Program Coordinator Evan Green.
Last years academy featured motivational speakers, current and graduating Men of Excellence student panel, and a team building fieldtrip. The academy is free and open to CSM African American and other underrepresented male students who have a desire to learn about CSM, meet new friends take advantage of one-on-one advising and most importantly who want to start their academic career on solid footing.
For information on the summer academy, visit http://www.csmd.edu/diversity/summeracademy.htm.
CSM Men of Excellence Summer Academy. Aug. 3-13. College of Southern Maryland, La Plata Campus, 8730 Mitchell Road, La Plata. This two-week academy provides incoming CSM African American and other underrepresented male students with an orientation to the college and its resources, through student engagement, summer academic enrichment in mathematics and English, team building and leadership development prior to the beginning of the academic year. The academy is a Summer Bridge experience designed to prepare incoming students for the social, emotional and academic rigors of CSM. Free. All participants must complete the online application at http://www.csmd.edu/diversity/summeracademy.htm.