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STLCC program inspires Black men coping with college for first time

STLCC created the program to help reverse a decline in recruitment and retention of African American students
Credit: St. Louis American

ST. LOUIS — Recruiting for Black Male Achievers Academy

Overcoming the academic achievement gap for many Black men begins with building a bridge to confidence in the classroom.

Learning to say, “I can,” before declaring “I can’t,” is a key according to Franklyn Taylor, vice president for student affairs at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.

STLCC is recruiting 100 African American men for its Black Male Achievers Academy, a free, six-week program serving Black men attending college for the first time in the fall. 

The program engages students preparing for their first semester of college. STLCC created the program to help reverse a decline in recruitment and retention of African American students.

“(BMAA) students get the support they need to persist and graduate. They have a sense of belonging and someone to turn to when they need it. The extra support creates an opportunity for students to succeed,” Taylor said. 

“When students know staff and faculty are 100% committed to their success and believe in them, they will often persist, despite insurmountable obstacles. Which is why it is necessary to build a trusting relationship from the very beginning. Relationships are everything.”

The curriculum includes a course in social science and reading, and students receive academic support in preparation for future English and math courses. There are also discussions on career options, financial fitness and social justice.  

The BMAA will run June 21-July 30 and take place in-person on both the St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley and STLCC-Forest Park campuses. 

To participate, Black male high school graduates with a 1.5-3.0 grade point average who have not yet attended college can email a recommendation letter from their high school counselor or a teacher to Taylor at ftaylor65@stlcc.edu. He also can be contacted at (314) 644-9212. 

There were 23 participants confirmed for the STLCC at Florissant Valley campus and 30 for its Forest Park location. 

In addition to the instruction and support, students will receive three credit hours and an academic scholarship to STLCC for up to $3,000 for two-academic years.

Chester Henderson, an STLCC continuing education program information and enrollment assistant, participated in a previous STLCC program like the BMAA called African American Male initiative. It was in session from 2009-2017.

Henderson left Parkway West High School before graduation to work and support his child. He later completed GED course work and received a diploma. 

“I grew up in North St. Louis surrounded by the complexities of an urban environment. Survival was always a challenge. I lost so many childhood friends at a young age to gun violence, and it was a hard pill to swallow. It’s hard to look to the future when you are seeing things like this daily in your community,” he said.  

“I always wanted to do better for myself and my family and that’s when I made the decision to go back and further my education. I’m so happy I did, because so many doors have opened because of that.” 

The AAMI guide Henderson through the educational process and helped him graduate with an associate degree in human services from STLCC in 2017. 

“As a first-time student, I needed help understanding and navigating the process of being a student. I wanted to know how to be successful,” Henderson said. 

Following his STLCC graduation, Henderson was hired to work full-time for the College and has held several positions before being promoted to his current role.

“With the Black Male Achievers Academy in place, the College’s efforts to recruit and support Black male students will be strengthened,” he said.