SACMEN to provide leadership opportunities for male students of color

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Education sophomore Christian Villarreal, a member of the San Antonio College Men Empowerment Network (SACMEN), talks about the mentoring program Feb. 1 in the Fiesta Room of Loftin. The network is for men of color to get academic support and participate in events and activities. Photo by Rachel Cooper

Recruitment is open for students interested in leadership development, scholarship opportunities, travel and outdoor experiences.

By Bismarck D. Andino

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Aiming to increase enrollment, retention and graduation rates for African-American and Latino male students, this college started the Men Empowerment Network two years ago in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin which funded the program with a $5,000 grant to begin programming, said Mona Aldana-Ramirez, director of retention support services and vice for student and academic success, Jan. 30.

“We are welcoming men of color … we want them to be aware of the resources and the activities we have planned for them,” Ramirez said. “We have leadership opportunities and leadership training that we will be doing this semester, and we are also kicking off a peer leadership program so that our current SACMEN can train to be leaders for incoming students.”

Based on the student registration data from fall 2016, male students were outnumbered by female by 17 percent. Dr. Sevithra Eratne, director of institutional research from this college, said 7,902 male and 11,126 female students were enrolled last semester. Male students’ registration dropped by 579 units in comparison to fall 2015 registration data.

Although this program has a main focus on male students of color, Ramirez said they would not turn away any student who is pursuant of a successful career. At one point, a girl was also part of the group. Currently, this program has 20 students enrolled.

Understanding the social needs of students is important, therefore students in this program receive mentoring and academic support from faculty and staff, she said.

“If they’re having some really tough struggles at home that they can’t work through, we walked them over to the counselors and we hand them over. Counselors do a fantastic job, they are also part of our mentoring program,” Ramirez said.

In addition, members attend student symposiums at UT Austin during the summer, student conferences on Latino affairs at Texas A&M at College Station, network conferences for Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and field trips at no cost.

“Because our SACMEN are encouraged to engage with the college culture, they also become aware of the opportunity for them … scholarship opportunities, leadership training, network with employees who are specifically looking for this demographic of students,” she said.

Business administration sophomore Andrew Martinez had to figure out things on his own when he came to this college. It was not until he became a member of SACMEN that he became aware of the help available to students like him.

“When you are first-time-in-college you’re nervous and scared and you don’t know where to go or if there is any help available,” Martinez said. “SACMEN not only grew my academic career with skills of organization, but also taught me what it means to be a man and to have my priorities in order.”

Martinez said men could be prideful sometimes specially when asking for help because they see it as a sign of weakness, but he encourages them to be part of this initiative, which he describes as unchangeable.

Motivated to pursue a doctorate degree in an entrepreneurship education, Martinez wants to make the difference in his community where only one out of nine Latinos make the attempt.

Liberal arts sophomore Dominic Carrasco said students need a support system like the one he has in this program.

Carrasco who has experienced family issues said having someone to count on has made an impact on him not only academically, but also personally.

“It’s good to come back to SACMEN and vent out all your problems and frustrations because they understand where you’re coming from,” he said. “The thing that is unique about SACMEN is that even as a group, we are different … but we have one common goal, and that is helping Hispanic and African-American males in college,” Carrasco said.

Liberal arts sophomore Miguel Alcorn said through this program he was able to meet professionals and learn firsthand.

It was through networking with one of these professionals that Alcorn got an internship with the Impact Leadership Program, where he is now teaching students from Jefferson, Edison and Southwest high schools about leadership, responsibility and the importance of an education.

“We live in a society, where, unfortunately, nine times out of 10, if you don’t have an education — at some degree — you’re limited,” he said. “So we’re pushing this on the seniors before they get out of high school.”

Alcorn said the program encourages these students to follow their passion and to enjoy it while doing it. We perform activities always with important lessons to learn from, he said.

Alcorn also compares SACMEN to a brotherhood because members become close friends because they spend time camping and going to educational field trips.

“Before I joined this program, I asked myself: What am I doing in college? But then, when I joined it and attended the conferences, I learned how to handle myself in the academic world and how to succeed,” he said. “When you’re surrounded by a bunch of people that are going somewhere, you want to be a part of that.”

Biology freshman Ari Nahmad served six years in the Navy as a nuclear mechanic and is now joining SACMEN to receive guidance as far as his path through this college.

Nahmad, who graduated from Clark High School in 2001, said it is never too late to continue with a higher education.

“If you have a dream, always pursue it. We only live by the limit you set for yourself,” he said.

Furthermore, Ramirez sees potential in the students of this college and she believes they just need the resources to succeed.

“These are men that come to us from our backyard, they are students that have the capability in figuring out things for themselves, sometimes you just have to clear the path for them,” she said.

Ramirez said male students of color don’t have to feel isolated and they are welcome to fill out a mentee questionnaire through the SACMEN application on this college www.alamo.edu/sac/MEN/ website.

For information about SACMEN, call Mona Aldana-Ramirez at 210-486-1419 or email at maldana-ramirez@alamo.edu.

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