White Bear Lake, Minn. (May 22, 2012) — College can be a lonely experience unless you connect with others.
To create more of a supportive campus community for male students of color, Century College has launched a chapter of the national Brother-to-Brother Program that aims to enhance students’ sense of belonging. Although the program has a strong focus on African American and Latino male students, all races are welcome to join.
“Strong academic support, creating community and connecting with others on campus leads to higher graduation rates, better grades and increased success in college,” said Patrick Donaway, Brother-to-Brother advisor. “We want to do everything we can to close the achievement gap among all students, but specifically our African American and Latino male students. We want students to think, look, act, and ultimately be successful people.”
One of the ways that students begin to see themselves as successful is dressing the part. Twice a week, members of Century’s Brother-to-Brother Program wear professional clothes to campus.
“When you look professional, you feel professional, and people treat you professionally,” said Donaway. When that happens, he said, students tend to respect themselves and others, contributing to a more cohesive community on campus.
“We want to prepare young men for the world that they may or may not see outside of their communities,” said Donaway. “That means a shirt, tie and slacks. Brother-to-Brother is a platform for these students to enhance, develop and practice the kinds of skills that will help them work in groups cross-culturally and solve problems.”
Service to the community is also an important part of the program, and students plan events to help younger people, and assist the hungry and the homeless. They plan to participate in leadership training this year, and some members will travel to a national conference.
Interest in starting a Brother-to-Brother chapter at Century began last winter when Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe, the keynote speaker for Century’s Martin Luther King lecture series, delivered an inspirational speech that fired up students on campus. Bledsoe, the founder of Brother-to-Brother, elicited waves of applause and even tears as students reacted to the message that despite life’s trials and tribulations, you have to train yourself to act and think like a successful person.
Bledsoe also urged students to dress well and sit near the front of their college classes. “Why,” he asked, “would you spend $100 to sit in the front row of a Lil’ Wayne concert, and then spend $5,000 to sit in the back of the class?” He said research shows that students who sit near the front tend to earn better grades.
Bledsoe urged students to commit to goals such as graduating from college, mentoring youth, working with men in jail, visiting youth in jail, cleaning up neighborhoods and taking young people to church.
In addition to Donaway, Prof. Eric Harmon and Shawn Moore of Century’s Young Scholars Program are serving as advisors to the members of Brother-to-Brother.
“Students in the program need to support each other and hold each other accountable,” said Harmon, who was interviewed as students split into their committees and planned events for the coming year. “They all need to start believing that they can and will graduate.”