Speakers discuss solutions to lower the college dropout rate for black and Latino men.
By Te Keyshia Johnson
College dropout rates are rising for black and Latino males because most do not plan ahead or join extracurricular activities, four educational speakers said Feb. 20 at “Getting and Keeping our Male Students,” a Black History Month panel discussion at Northwest Vista College.
Ron Kelley, CEO of the National School Improvement Corp., said many black and Latino men enter college with no clue about a major. They also fail to realize implementing a game plan is the key to succeeding, he said.
“Have you all heard Jay-Z say the ‘Blueprint’?” he asked. “I’d like to give you the blueprint of how to be successful in college. The first thing you need is a plan. When I was your age and sitting in those seats, I had a 25-year plan for my entire life and I carried it in a notebook with me as I would attend my college courses. I didn’t accomplish every single goal in that book, but I achieved almost every one of them because I knew where I was going.”
The three other educators on the panel agreed with Kelley. They discussed black males who go to college because they receive sports scholarships. Once enrolled, they have their minds set on sports instead of focusing on degree plans.
Mateen Diop, San Antonio Independent School District executive director of campus administration and school leadership, said the way to lower the dropout rate of black and Latino males is to ensure they belong to a campus organization beyond sports teams. For example, if a black athlete were to injure himself playing basketball, he wouldn’t have a reason to stay in college because a basketball scholarship was the main purpose he attended, Diop said.
“What I see in most black males when they go to college is that they don’t have a connection,” he said. “If they’re fortunate enough to be involved with a fraternity or something like that, it becomes their connection; if they don’t get involved they’ll most likely drop out.”
Mike Gutierrez and Jorge Segovia, coordinators for the Project MALES student-mentoring program at the University of Texas at Austin, said their program stands for Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success.
They said the Project MALES program gives UT-Austin’s Latino men opportunities to mentor at Texas high schools, research Latino males in education and perform community service.
Segovia said the program helps participants overcome obstacles in their college years.
Gutierrez said, “We also have a work-study component; we can bring on Latino male students that can work anywhere from eight to nine hours for us. Our students are definitely on the front line of helping out with the high school students, and we appreciate all the work they do for us.”
All four speakers agreed black and Latino male students who enroll in college should meet regularly with their adviser. That way, they know the path to take in order to graduate.
“As you go through the process, have a plan, play the game and make it happen,” Kelley said.