Summit Confronts Student Equity and Success for Black Males at Community Colleges - Higher Education
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Summit Confronts Student Equity and Success for Black Males at Community Colleges

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by Jamal E. Mazyck

Los Angeles – With more than 500 attendees, today caps the 8th annual African- American Male Education Network & Development (A2MEND) meeting, highlighting equity minded approaches to success for African-American men in community colleges. Presidents, administrators, faculty and students gathered to address institutional strategies that impact the success of African-American male students. The goal of this year’s summit and overarching mission is to counteract the dismal forecast of the African-American male in higher education by centrally focusing on the role of the institution.

The Path to Action theme was reiterated from start to finish beginning with Wednesday’s Preconference to kick off the summit. The conference started with a series of professional development workshops including topics on credibility, nonverbal messages, mentorship and the power of positive self-talk. One workshop prompted a candid discussion with community college faculty and administrators on the difference between change and transition. For many working at community colleges, both concepts are not always the easiest to grasp. Jahmad Canley, president and CEO of the Potential Unleashed Consulting firm, said, “One of the most desirable traits in today’s workplace is someone’s ability to handle change.”

Change is constant when considering diversity on community college campuses. “Many of us have scotomas, which are environmental sensory blocking mechanisms that explain how you are conditioned to see things. There is always a need for diversity and not everyone sees that the same way,” Canley added.

Following the workshops, an executive panel discussion with California community college presidents was held regarding paths to prominent positions. Panelist Chancellor Emeritus of North Orange Community College District Dr. Jerome Hunter discussed effective interview strategies. “Don’t come into an interview to try to up the ante. Being yourself tends to work. Make the board want to have dinner with you. They want to be comfortable.” Dr. Kevin G. Walthers, Superintendent/President of Allan Hancock College, offered interview attire advice. “Pick a tie with the school colors of where you are applying to show commitment to the institution.”

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Changing the agenda to address inequality issues at California’s community colleges is a priority for Dr. Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District. “Let’s move the needle, leverage our resources. African-American students have the lowest graduation rates at the University of California and California State University systems. Let’s amend that agenda. If we don’t lean in and do something, then we become passive perpetuators of inequality.”

The highest ranked African-American male in the Los Angeles Unified School District, District 1 Board Member Dr. George McKenna III, was also on hand to provide advice to African-American male community college students. “Be prepared to be resistant to your oppression. The obstacles to success are external and internal. Not everyone is going to help you,” McKenna said.

Many of the sessions went beyond the need to do more for underserved student populations and tackled implementation strategies. The Minority Male Community College Collaborate research group out of San Diego State University presented its data on facilitating student success for Black male community college students and effective teaching and learning practices. Program co-director and SDSU education faculty member Dr. J. Luke Wood noted the significance of the path to action mantra at this year’s conference. “A2MEND is one of the premier conferences addressing equity gaps facing our men of color in the community college. It provides a space that moves past rhetoric and posturing to have actionable dialogues on how to improve the capacity of our nation’s community colleges to support the success of Black men.”

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Stories of perseverance from students that have received A2MEND scholarships resonated with keynote speaker Kevin Powell. “The most important thing you can do as a leader is to create other leaders. We need to manifest our cultural swagger. Part of being successful is being multilingual both literally and figuratively. Talent alone is not enough; we have to work hard.” Known for his prolific political, literary and cultural activism, Powell was moved by the community college students that spoke at the conference upon receiving their awards. “I was truly touched by what the students had to overcome.”

For more information on the A2MEND organization visit a2mend.org.

Jamal E. Mazyck can be reached at jmazyck@diverseeducation.com and on Twitter @jmbeyond7.

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