June 04, 2010
Cheyney University Call Me MISTER students
In January 2010, the Advocacy & Policy Center of the College Board produced a monograph entitled, “The Educational Crisis Facing Young Men of Color: Reflections on Four Days of Dialogue on the Educational Challenges of Minority Males.” The stated goal of the Advocacy & Policy Center is to “transform education in America.” So, the Center has a laudable objective, and they can use our help.
President of the College Board, Gaston Caperton, remarked that he was “particularly struck by the impact of the lack of education on a person’s chances of ending up in prison. This realization led me to an examination of two things: the first was the cost, in human and fiscal terms, of our failure to educate our citizens well. The second was a consideration of what the College Board might do in response to this issue” (Preface, 2010).
To examine the situation closer, the College Board conducted four, one-day seminars to identify the challenges facing young men of color in America. Numerous scholars, social activists, and young men of color discussed the perceptions and experiences of these young men.
The College Board reported in its monograph that the days of dialogue “pinpointed powerful societal forces that threaten educational aspirations of young men of color. These include the lack of role models, the search for respect outside of the education world, the loss of cultural memory in shaping minority male identity and pride, barriers of language, the challenges of poverty, extraordinary community pressures and a sense that the education system is failing our young.”
These findings, with my own 30 years of observations, compel me to examine how we at Cheyney University could augment our support to Americans who are falling through the cracks of our educational continuum. Some of these young men find it easier to follow a path to incarceration rather than a path to higher education and more rewarding careers. Unfortunately, America has the largest incarcerated population in the world, and African American males are highly represented in this population of incarcerated Americans often because of a sheer lack of attention or lack of role models.
The findings from the days of dialogue seem to lead the Advocacy and Policy Center to describe a “third America” that is often overlooked or ignored by mainstream America, even though these Americans appear to be headed for the too real cliff of educational decline that is expected to peak in 2020. Moreover, the Center warns that the fate of the “third Americans” – many of them young men of color—affects our collective national, economical, and global lives.
From my perspective, there has been some action nationally since this call. However, much more needs to be accomplished, and best practices should be replicated.
Mayor Michael Nutter has championed the need for increasing the college-going and college completion rate in the Philadelphia area. He has called representatives from the School District of Philadelphia, the charter schools, and nearly 90 institutions of higher education to the table to determine how this grave challenge could be met and managed.
Many institutions, including Cheyney University have responded that we will work more systematically to bridge the transition from high school, or middle school, to college by offering dual enrollment programs, mentorship activities, and more invitations to college events. It seems that sturdy relationship bridges need to be built that establish bonds that help young men of color transition from one life and educational stage to another.
Since 2008, we have been aware of the need to more strategically respond to the fate of men of young men of color. Thus, we became engaged in the Call Me MISTER program. On May 8, 2010, Cheyney University graduated the first cohort of students in the Call Me MISTER Initiative. The mission of the Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) Initiative is to increase the pool of available teachers from broader more diverse backgrounds, particularly among the State's lowest performing elementary schools. Students who participate in the Call Me MISTER program are largely selected from under-served and socially disadvantaged communities.
Thanks to the Honorable James Roebuck of the PA House of Representatives (who secured initial funding for the program here), the Call Me MISTER project is contributing to the talent pool of excellent teachers by identifying and supporting students who aspire to become teachers. Cheyney University is proud to participate in this national initiative because it builds teachers who are leaders and who will return to their communities to inspire other young men and women of color to develop their cognitive, creative, and leadership abilities. Mentoring and leadership development skills are essential components of the Call Me MISTER program.
In addition, Cheyney University has been collaborating with City Year, a national model that unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, giving them the skills and opportunities to change the world.
Many of the City Year interns serve as tutors, mentors and role models to students who are in danger of falling between the cracks into the third America because of lack of role models. City Year interns, just out of college themselves, take an active interest in helping children stay in school and on track. As a result, during their year of service, the volunteers gain civic leadership skills they can use throughout their lifetimes.
This past March, a small number of Cheyney University students participated in a City Year project during their Spring Break by engaging in a week of service in Philadelphia. Their activities ranged from cleaning some community parks and schools as well as giving their time to mentor some young children.
Moreover, Cheyney University has been teaming with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) since the fall of 2008 to mentor 28 children from Chester, PA. Through this partnership, we are exposing young children to the promise of higher education and helping them aspire and achieve more academically by working with mentors (BBBS) to demonstrate the opportunities gained through higher education.
Through these projects, and other initiatives, Cheyney University is affirmatively responding to the need to support young men of color in America. However, we realize that we must have more partners to stand up with us, shoulder to shoulder, to make an even larger impact on this national crisis.
In May, Mayor Nutter held a regional Commencement celebration to bring positive recognition to the diverse graduates of our regional institutions. We attended that event and stand firm with Mayor Nutter on this quest to promote the virtues of more education.
Additionally, we acknowledge the depth and seriousness of this national crisis, and plan to arrange for our own dialogue with diverse constituencies, to establish plans needed to furnish support for young men of color. These constituencies will include families, faith-based organizations, community organizations, school districts, counselors, faculty in higher education, and the young men themselves. We also plan to evaluate the progress of these endeavors and share the findings with our community partners.
As we roll out our new Strategic Plan, Pathways to Excellence, we invite you to share your ideas on how we can collaborate, share resources and effective practices and how collectively we can tackle these issues together.
Going forth, please visit our website often, www.cheyney.edu, to learn how our faculty, students, and staff are working to make Cheyney University the model institution of the region in supporting a wide range of future American leaders. We invite you to help us support our common goal of one America— truly indivisible!
Tags: BBBS , Big Brothers and Big Sisters , Bill Cosby , black males , Call Me MISTER , City Year , college board , education challenges , education crisis , Gaston Caperton , Mayor Nutter , Michael Nutter , minority males , pathways to excellence , strategic plan
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