Cal U counters Black male disparity with mentoring

This fall, in an effort to increase the number of minority males who succeed in college, California University of Pennsylvania has created a mentoring program for students attending their school.

The goal of Cal U Men United is to “provide a campus community that will support the growth, development and achievement of young men of color as they strive to become men of character prepared to take an active role in the global community,” said President Angelo Armenti Jr.

CAL U MEN UNITED—California University of Pennsylvania President Angelo Armenti Jr., center, greets Ron Wiley, 18, a sports management major, left, and LaMont Coleman, associate dean of student affairs, at the recent Cal U Men United dinner.

Though the program, launched on Sept. 13 is aimed at minority groups as a whole, this year it will benefit 30 freshmen and sophomore students with Black males making up a large portion of the total.

“We want to collaboratively create an environment that enables these young men to reach their academic potential and prepare them for successful professional careers,” said Lisa McBride, special assistant to the president for EEEO/university ombuds­person. “As a campus community we are going to provide them with the resources they need to create their own success story at Cal U.”

Originally the university had reached out to the Board of Governor’s Scholars in an effort to spur interest in the group. However some would argue these students are not the group most in need of this kind of program.

“The students were initially selected because they were Board of Governor’s Scholars, but we then decided to open it up to all men of color,” McBride said. “Initially, we were trying to get students involved, period. The majority are African-American males.”

Disparities in college attendance and graduation among African-American males as compared to Whites exist across the country. In 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than 8 percent of Black men between the ages of 18 and 29 had graduated from college in comparison to 17 percent for White males.

“At Cal U we had focus groups to discover the critical variable for why we were losing these young men,” McBride said. “What we found is a lot of them felt isolated; some of them had financial problems. If you don’t have enough to eat, you’re not going to want to open up a book.”

Beyond academics, the students will also receive financial counseling and be connected with philanthropic efforts in the community.

“Each of the advisory committee members works one- on-one with the students. Each has a mentor who is a faculty, administrator or staff member,” McBride said. “It’s been really positive because before these students didn’t know who to reach out to. We try to do everything as a holistic approach.”

Beginning Sept. 20, the students have had bi-weekly meetings with their mentors and other students in the group.

“What we’re seeing first is students beginning to form a brotherhood as it relates to succeeding academically,” McBride said. “Now what we have on Sundays is they study together.”

At Cal U, recruiting and retaining students from diverse backgrounds is one of the strategic priorities in their 2009-2012 Strategic Plan. The most recent demographic breakdown lists African-American male enrollment at just over 200 out of approximately 7,700 total students.

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