Perspectives: A2MEND Addressing Issues Facing Black Males in Higher Education - Higher Education
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Perspectives: A2MEND Addressing Issues Facing Black Males in Higher Education

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by Dr. Mark Robinson

Since its founding in 2005, the African American Male Education Network and Development (A2MEND) organization has grown from an organization that identified the main component of their mission to “create an affirming academic and professional environment for African-Americans,” to an organization that is actively achieving this mission through providing workshops and presentations throughout California and the United States. Through this outreach, A2MEND aims to engage students, faculty, administrators and student services personnel in addressing the many significant issues and obstacles facing Black males in higher education today.

On Feb. 29, four A2MEND members traveled to Merritt Community College in Oakland, Calif., to present workshops to both student and employee groups. The student workshop focused on the “Five Essential GOALS” necessary to effectively navigate the waters of higher education. These GOALS present students with five tools to better understand the specific needs of the Black male student, as well as five student learning outcome objectives to apply to their own journey through college and beyond. The focus of the employee workshop provided information on institutional factors that assist in “Bridging the Gap” to achievement for Black males.

The student group in attendance included a diverse range of students from varying racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, age and gender groups. An assessment conducted at the end of the workshop measured students’ understanding of the student learning outcomes presented to them. The results show that students from all backgrounds benefited from the workshop and were given the skills to increase communication with individuals on their campus. In addition, the results of the assessment showed that in all five GOALS categories over 70 percent of the students in attendance could identify the intended outcome, with questions ranging from financial aid procedures to remembering the GOAL acronym.

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The feedback portion of the assessment from students was both humbling and inspiring, and clearly proved that A2MEND is meeting the intended goals of their mission. Over 99 percent of respondents indicated that more Black males in college should hear this information or attend this workshop.

Insights gained from students through the workshop were clear and articulate; when students were asked to explain why the workshop was useful to them replies included: “Because it motivated me to stay in school after I complete my two years in community college” and “Because this info empowers you to strive and go farther and harder than you ever had. It also lets you know what you’re up against.” The globally applicable foundation of knowledge students gain from the practical experience provided in this workshop is proving to be essential to student success and understanding of Black males in higher education.

The Summit

On March 19, Coastline Community College and A2MEND co-hosted the first annual African American Male Summit: A Critical Examination of Institutional Barriers in Community Colleges. The event was comprised of four inter-related strands: the administrative strand, faculty/instructional strand, student support strand, and student strand; which allowed participants from various educational roles to discuss the important issues facing Black males in education from their own unique vantage points. The goal of this collaboration was to effectively uncover the barriers to education for Black males, and was achieved through the dialogue and discussion that took place at the conference.

The summit served as yet another opportunity for the A2MEND group to concentrate on their mission by building an affirming environment for Black males and served as a turning point for the critical issue of Black male success in higher education. The partnership with Coastline Community College in addressing the vital issues facing Black males in higher education was the first step towards creating the institutional change needed to best assist Black males in their successful pursuit of higher education.

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The support of college leaders such as Dr. Ding-Jo Currie, Coastline Community College President and Chair of the American Association of Community Colleges, serves as a powerful commitment among leaders from diverse and varied backgrounds that Black male success is a critical issue that must be addressed.

Athletics Division

On April 7, A2MEND presented their inaugural session from the Athletic Division of the organization. The goals of the Athletic Division of A2MEND align with the mission and vision of the organization’s commitment to Black male success, but with a more specific concentration on athletics. The presentation, entitled, “A Multi-Pronged Approach Toward Improving Academic Achievement of African American Male Student Athletes” focused on identifying the specific needs and challenges of student athletes at the community college level. The workshop was presented at the 88th Annual Convention of the American Association for Community Colleges held at the Philadelphia Convention Center in Pennsylvania.

The session presented participants with current data on Black male student athlete graduation and success rates, as well as a historical and current look at trends in organizations effecting student athlete success. Through the presentation, the A2MEND Athletic Division gave an analysis of community college survey findings on Black male community college student athletes.

The Athletic Division used these findings to identify the necessary components needed in programs and services for student athletes. These findings are being used by the Athletic Division to develop curriculum for future Educational Programs and Services, as well as conferences and workshops, targeting the specific needs not only of Black male student athletes, but of all community college student athletes.

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Another main finding of the data presented was the need for collaboration between community colleges, the governing bodies overseeing community college athletics, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Collaboration is needed among these groups to effectively take the necessary components identified through student athlete surveys and integrate them into programs and services targeting student athletes across the country.

The Athletic Division remains committed to A2MEND’s ideal that the various groups effecting Black male success in higher education must work collaboratively on student athlete projects in order to ensure that students receive the educational services and programs necessary for success in academics, athletics and beyond.

Future of A2MEND

The A2MEND organization is currently preparing for presentations and workshops on the topics of Black male student success; as well as student athlete achievement through the Athletic Division. The group is working tirelessly to expand their membership and sponsorship base, and is excited about the opportunity to provide scholarships and mentorships as the organization grows. To learn more about A2MEND, or to schedule a workshop at your institution, please visit the organization online at: http://a2mend.org/

About the Author:

Dr. Mark Robinson is the vice chancellor of student development at City College of San Francisco and co-founder of the nonprofit organization A2MEND: African American Male Education Network and Development.

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