Community College of Philadelphia has received a $600,000 federal grant to provide support services that will help African-American male students achieve academic success.
The grant, from the U.S. Department of Education’s Predominantly Black Institutions and Schools program, will allow the College to create a Center for Male Engagement (CME), which will provide a setting where young men are supported by peers and mentors and encouraged to take advantage of the many academic and social opportunities at the College.
“Community College of Philadelphia has been inspiring and preparing thousands of underserved young people since opening its doors 45 years ago,” said U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, who supported the College’s grant application and is the author of many educational support programs for disadvantaged youth. “This grant will allow the College to determine the best strategies to help African-American males attain their academic goals,” said Fattah, who attended the College and later served on its Board of Trustees.
The CME, which opened in November, will target 300 African-American males who are recent high school graduates entering college for the first time as full-time students. Michael Robinson was hired as the Center’s director in December. Robinson is the former assistant regional director for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.
The CME will provide students with support coaches, counseling, academic support, life skills workshops, cultural enrichment activities and financial assistance, as needed. Additionally, the CME will offer a summer enrichment program for 2010 that will help prepare 60 prospective male students for college success and provide scholarships.
“The goal of this program is to provide a bridge for the students from high school to College, to arm them with the tools needed to be successful socially and academically, as well as to instill a sense of enthusiasm and motivation about college,” said Ronald C. Jackson, the College’s dean of students.
African-Americans make up more than 51 percent of the College’s total enrollment of approximately 35,000 credit and noncredit students, making the College the state’s largest single point of access to higher education for minorities.
According to the grant application, African-American males at the College have the lowest persistence rates of any group, with more than 60 percent of first-time, African-American male students not persisting from fall-to-fall semesters.
Charles Brown a contributor to the book African American Men in College (Jossey-Bass, An Imprint of Wiley, 2006) observed that African-American students, in general, tend to be more communal and that colleges need to provide these students with a sense of community. The overall goal of the CME will be to establish a supportive, safe community where members will feel secure asking for help they might need and encouraged to support each other as they navigate the College environment and their lives outside of school. Support services will include mentoring through support coaches, the development of supportive relationships with the CME staff and each other, counseling to help members balance the competing needs of home and school and exposure to a variety of life skills and cultural activities to help members adapt to their new environment.
The Predominantly Black Institutions and Schools program bill was first introduced by Illinois Congressman Danny K. Davis and was signed into law in 2008 by President George W. Bush. It amended the Higher Education Act to provide resources to colleges and universities with an undergraduate enrollment that is at least 40 percent African-American. Its purpose is to strengthen the capacity of largely black institutions to carry out programs in the areas of science, technology, engineering or mathematics; health education; internationalization or globalization; teacher preparation; or improving the educational outcome of African-American males.