Julius St. John wants to prove that he can be among the minority of African-American males who start and finish college on time.
The recent George Washington High School (Philadelphia) graduate believes he will attain his goal with the help of Community College of Philadelphia's Center for Male Engagement (CME).
Incoming members of the fall class learn success strategies during a two-week Summer Enrichment Program held at the center. The three-year-old initiative offers male students, African Americans especially, the tools needed to navigate, communicate and thrive on campus and in class.
"I think that educating African-American males about the college culture is important," said St. John, who was among the 50 African-American students who attended the orientation session.
"The information I got so far is helping me to understand how to be a better student. It's important for me to have a place to get referrals and to ask questions. I am looking forward to one day owning my own business, so coming here will help me stay on that goal."
Daryl Bright, Derek Perkins, Richard Newell, Kevin Covington and Jules Thomas are program facilitators. They are all young, African-American, male college graduates. Some of the things they discussed in the opening session were classroom decorum, the importance of punctuality and being present for class, time management, a college work ethic and resources for those needing help.
The young men shouted, "I belong here!" as the facilitators urged them to stand up and chant. They did this enthusiastically before watching "Bring Your 'A' Game," a video moderated by Mario Van Peebles. In the video they were taught about the importance of education and the ways African-American males can use the educational system to avoid trouble with the law, or prison, and becoming chronically unemployed. Among those speaking in the film were Ice Cube and Spike Lee.
The Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) initiative recently won the prestigious 2012 Noel-Levitz Retention Excellence Award, which recognized four programs that were innovative in creating student success programs. The other recipients were the "Course Signals" program at Purdue University in Indiana, the "CCC2NAU" at Coconino Community College in Arizona and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education's "Project Graduate."
"Each year these awards recognize the most successful, state-of-the-art retention programs in use today," said Tim Culver, Noel-Levitz's vice president. "This year's honorees have made great strides in student retention, and we are pleased to recognize them in their efforts. The winners demonstrated measurable institutional outcomes, (and) originality and creativity, as well as excellent use of resources and adaptability for use at other institutions."
CCP freshman Lindell Low of West Philadelphia believes the program will assist him get the foundation he needs to transfer to a four-year college.
"They have already given me a sense of direction and can serve as role models for me," he said.
(Arlene Edmond reported this story for the Philadelphia Tribune)