More than 50 Latino and African-American male high school seniors attended Project SUCCESS Preview Day to learn more about why they should consider becoming Broncos.
The second annual event on May 12 gave attendees an opportunity to hear more about what the university has to offer with a Men of Color Resource Fair, a campus tour and workshops in English and Spanish on topics ranging from financial aid to student life to campus housing.
The students and the approximately 100 guardians and family members in attendance May 12 left with a message that the university cares about their future and is committed to doing everything it can to help them succeed.
Tim Alexander, coordinator of Project SUCCESS, told the crowd about the origins of the program and its mission to close the opportunity gap for male students of color. He also shared statistics about retention. Of the 1,142 Latino male students enrolled in fall 2015, 992 remained in fall 2016. For African-American male students, of the 120 males who enrolled in fall 2015, 99 remained in fall 2016.
“These are just numbers,” Alexander said. “We know that when men of color are presented with the opportunity to be successful, they are going to be fine. All of you already have the innate strengths, gifts and talents to be successful.”
Sparked by data that showed that male African-American and Latino students had a return-to-college rate after the first year that was lower than their white peers, Project SUCCESS was created in 2015 to make sure male students of color have the resources they need to persist, he said.
The program currently serves 52 first-year students — 14 African-American and 38 Latino — supported by seven upperclassmen interns, one graduate assistant, and 14 faculty and staff mentors.
Organizers plan to expand the program to include Native American male students in the fall.
“Male Student Initiatives like Project Success, are disrupting the negative narratives and creating more opportunities for young men of color within the CSU system, said Thomas Cruz-Soto Jr., associate vice president and dean of students for the Division of Student Affairs. “More than ever before, men of color have a greater chance of not falling victim to statistics of circumstances and now have more enhanced opportunities to become scholars of opportunity.”
University President Soraya M. Coley shared with the audience that Cal Poly Pomona is dedicated to ensuring students are successful and supported and talk about what she learned from students during a listening tour completed in 2015.
“In talking to men of color, while they tried to navigate, they often didn’t feel confident in seeking help,” Coley said. “Part of what we do with Project SUCCESS is facilitate your entry into the university and let you know that someone has your back.”
The president’s husband Ron Coley, who serves as the vice chancellor for business and administrative services at UC Riverside, talked about attending segregated schools in his native North Carolina and how important it is to student success to feel a sense of belonging.
William Franklin, vice president for student affairs at Cal State Dominguez Hills and the founder of the Male Success Alliance, a mentoring program for middle, high school and college African-American and Latino students, gave the keynote address.
Of the estimated 480,000 students in the 23-campus CSU system, Latino males make up 15.7 percent and African-American males 1.6 percent.
Men who enroll in college are more likely to drop out, he said, adding that 2.2 million fewer men than women enrolled in colleges nationwide in 2017.
Franklin showed a photo of a baby elephant tied by the ankle to a post with a chain. As the elephant grows, it has the strength to break the chain, but it has been trained to the point that it doesn’t realize that is possible, he said.
“Men of color – the lies that have been told about us and the illusion of the chains that are on us and the fact that people don’t see the brilliance in us, we will not let that stop us,” he said. “Project SUCCESS, they’re going to help you understand…that you have the strength to break that chain.”