The group made a trip to Washington, D.C., with local business leaders.
By Andrew Casas
The San Antonio College Men Empowerment Network has a new lounge for members in the Student Learning Assistance center in Room 707M in Moody Learning Center.
The program aims to increase engagement, enrollment, retention and graduation rates for African-Americans males and Latino males, according to a flyer to recruit members.
The lounge includes computer stations, couches, a screen and projector and an office space for two staff members.
Academic Coordinator Geraldo Guerra, who serves as an adviser for SACMEN, said in an interview Nov.19 that this college started the Men Empowerment Network five years ago.
The network was established in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin, which funded the program with a $5,000 grant.
The founders were Dr. Victor B. Saenz, professor at UT-Austin, and Dr. Luis Ponjuan, professor at Texas A&M University, who came up with Austin’s Project MALES.
“As they built this program, they started challenging the state of Texas, universities and community colleges to work around this common thread that we see in higher education with the disappearance of minority males in college,” Guerra said.
Guerra said statistically Latino and African-American males are at the bottom of education in retention rates, productive grade rates and graduation rates, he said.
Although the program is geared toward the perspective of minority males, any student is allowed to join. Guerra said women are welcome.
Of the 28 current members, 21 are male and seven are female.
The study lounge was built mainly to encourage academic success, he said. Students come in and do their work there because the majority of the time they don’t get work done at home, he said.
“A lot of times students have big families along with responsibilities around the house or have people visiting and they don’t have the space or concentration to study,” Guerra said. “We try to keep them here so they can focus on their homework and class assignments.”
SACMEN has five pillars the program stands by — brotherhood, identity, leadership, health and wellness, and college and career readiness. Guerra said everything they do in the program ties to one of those pillars.
“Brotherhood is big because you are thinking of a fraternity feel but without all the nonsense that you hear on the news,” he said. “It’s that feeling that you have a place to go to.”
Guerra said to be a part of the program, students must fill out a student participation contract, which overlays guidelines and rules.
Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA, attend study hall in the SACMEN lounge for at least four hours each week and be assigned a peer mentor.
Students are also required to turn in a weekly progress report to their peer mentor, which shows how students plan to attack their assignments in their classes. Students must meet with peer mentors weekly.
Guerra said students cannot bring guests into the lounge, and students must volunteer in a least two college events each semester.
In past semesters, Guerra said students who participated fully in the program have gotten a lot out of the program.
Students get the chance to travel. They went on a trip to Washington, D.C., last year with the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
According to sachamber.org, the Chamber of Commerce is an advocate for all members in the business community in building and propelling business success impacting San Antonio’s infrastructure, economic development and workforce.
“Last year we had six students travel to Washington, D.C., under our SA to D.C. trip, and every year the Chamber of Commerce sends out business leaders in different variety of sectors here in San Antonio to meet with congressional leaders in the federal government,” Guerra said.
“Back in February was the first time the Chamber of Commerce invited college students, and SAC was the only school and has been the only school that has participated in this endeavor.”
Guerra said the students who were picked were students in their final semesters and graduating because the trip broadened their experiences before they enter their careers.
The students were matched with representatives of industries associated with their major or interest.
Students spent a day shadowing business and community leaders. Students were able to meet the speaker of the house, the minority leader of the house and some senators.
“This is great opportunity for them to see the other aspects of the business,” Guerra said. “For students it could potentially be something they want to do in their careers, and for them they could better the community of the city of San Antonio.”
Guerra plans to build relationships with middle and high schools to have a peer mentoring program with members of SACMEN.
“Once these students enroll here at SAC, they can already have a place to go and turn to, so they won’t feel overwhelmed in their first year in college,” he said.
Guerra said he’s seen improvement in students’ grades with some students GPAs being 3.5 or higher.
“Before we had some students’ GPAs in the low 2.0s, but once they joined SACMEN, they turned it around.”
Guerra said this year SACMEN is more rigorous in academics then years past.
In 2018 SACMEN was recognized for excellence by the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color.
SACMEN received an outstanding program award at the fifth annual Texas Male Student Leadership Summit at UT-Austin.
For more information regarding SACMEN, call Guerra at 210-486-0164 or email email@example.com.