According to a recent University of Texas at Austin report, male students of color have lower academic outcomes than White male students who are significantly less engaged.
The report, “Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges,” is based on responses from more than 453,000 students nationwide to the Community College Survey of Student Engagement.
“We have to start with the gap and find out why it exists,” PCC sociology professor Dr. J.P. Harris said. “I think it starts with the resources and particularly what resources are available for students of color.”
Despite the gap between the success rate of black males and their white classmates, the report also states that among male students, black males are the most engaged, followed by Hispanics, and white males are the least engaged of the three groups.
While reading the reports, I believe the readers should take in to account that many African-American males who are currently in college are the firsts in their families to do so and don’t have the same help coming from home as their white classmates.
The Ujima Program is a culturally based learning collaborative dedicated to the empowerment and holistic advancement of African-American students through rigorous academic standards, community outreach, and social activism.
“Unfortunately the statistics are true,” Ujima director Gena Lopez said. “I think that our young black men have limited options once they hit a certain age. They either have to support their family or themselves. We’ve had students in Ujima who were scholars, our top students, who have had to leave school because they had real life issues they had to take care of. In fact, the president of Ujima had to leave school because he had to take care of his mom out of state.”
No, I’m not asking for a pass or for the results of the reports to be swept under the rug. I think the report can be used as motivation for us men of color because it does show that we are more active within the classroom.
However, as a man of color, I think it’s important for us men to know when it’s OK to seek help rather than settling. Programs such as UJIMA and Pathways are very important assets available here on campus for students of color. The counseling and mentorship that a program like UJIMA provides is very important and beneficial to students who don’t necessarily have the same motivation or help at home.
“The Ujima program has definitely grounded me a lot,” environmental science major Brian Bloomfield said. “The instructors in the program have helped me develop myself into someone who wants to graduate college. When I first got to college I was doing it for my parents and my family. I realized to succeed you have to be self-motivating and building yourself, and that’s what Ujima helps black men do.”
I believe the report does show positives about black males inside the classroom, but it is up to us to perform and seek all of our resources.
“We need to have resources available not so much for students of color, but for the different class levels that are coming in,” Harris said. “A lot of these hardships are not because these students don’t have the wit or intellect, it’s because they don’t have the resources.”