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Program helps African-American males

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A program called the Achievers & Scholars Initiative has come to APSU with the goal of ensuring the academic success of African-American males on campus.

The program was created as a project for the Tennessee Board of Regents Maxine Smith Fellows Program for Rising Minority Professionals. The program hopes to give freshman African-American males at APSU the resources and experiences needed for college and professional success.

The trend of African-American males not performing as well as their peers in college has been documented. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, white men are six times as likely to graduate from community college in three years with a certificate or degree. The reasons behind these statistics were explored by a report by the Center for Community College Student Engagement in February 2014.

Titled “Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges,” the report showed black students were the most engaged in tutoring and orientation sessions, but reported the least success, where their white counterparts reported the lowest amount of engagement at almost every level but the most success.

“The issue is not that these students are not capable of doing college-level work,” said the report. “It is that too many [students] … have not had the educational experiences that would effectively maximize those capabilities.”

The Achievers & Scholars Initiative hopes to give African-American students those experiences. The goal of the initiative is to help APSU African-American freshmen males succeed by connecting them to resources on campus. The intention is to retain students, ensure their graduation and connect them to graduate school or professional opportunities.

Students may opt into the initiative at the beginning of their freshman year, where they are paired with a faculty or staff member who will connect them to the resources they need to be successful. Tutoring and academic support events are scheduled often, and students in the program attend workshops sponsored by the Wilbur N. Daniel African American Cultural Center.

These workshops are designed to promote desirable business skills, such as professionalism and networking. Students also have the opportunity to receive a book stipend. The initiative is a year-long program for the members.

Students who participate in the program also have the opportunity to attend an all-expense paid trip to a leadership conference. One group of students will attend the annual Black Issues Conference at the University of Tennessee Knoxville on Friday, Feb. 6, and Saturday, Feb. 7, while another group will attend the Annual Black, Brown and College Bound Conference in Tampa, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 18, through Saturday, Feb. 21.

The initiative has reported success so far. The program’s 2013-14 year succeeded in increasing the retention of black males from about 66 percent to about 88 percent. Students who participated in the program in the past gave it high approval, with over 80 percent saying they would recommend the program to others. Previous students have gone on to fulfill many leadership roles on campus, such as becoming peer mentors and orientation leaders.

“Achievers & Scholars has been extremely successful with aiding in the retention of African-American males at the institution,” said Henderson Hill, director for the African-American Cultural Center. “The next step for the program is to insert more cohorts for the program and assist even more students being successful.

The next ‘win’ is to continue to engage the program participants at an exceptional level, so that we can see all of the students that we work with graduate and go on to graduate school or careers.”

For more information about the program, visit the African-American Cultural Center or go online to http://www.apsu.edu/aacc/achievers-scholars-1. TAS

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