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Mentoring Black males toward a successful future

DENISHA McKNIGHT | 5/26/2017, 4:18 p.m.
“Today, I pledge allegiance to the best possible me. No matter how good I am, I know I can do ...
Project MALE is a collaborative effort of various organizations in Southern Dallas County united to create a student success program for African American males in the Kindergarten through 9th grade. The closing celebration, held May 6, is designed to acknowledge program accomplishments and to recognize the students and volunteers for their efforts. Denisha McKnight

The Dallas Examiner

“Today, I pledge allegiance to the best possible me. No matter how good I am, I know I can do better,” yelled the young boys of the Project M.A.L.E. initiative as they recited their creed during their rite of passage. “Today, I plan to build on the works of yesterday, which would lead me into the rewards of tomorrow. I plan to believe in me. Proud to be M.O.D. – Man Of Distinction!”

May 6, Project M.A.L.E. – Making Aspiring Leaders Excel – celebrated the achievements of the young men in their program with the closing ceremony of the pilot program at Antioch Fellowship Bishop Church.

“One of the things I am most proud of at Project MALE is that I will be able to learn how to be a successful young man,” said Jordan, a Beltline Elementary School student and participant.

Fatherhood and positive mentorship is the foundation of creating a strong Black male, according to the Effective Strategies for Mentoring African American Boys by the American Institutes for Research. The study states that these two elements influence how young Black boys conduct themselves emotionally, socially, mentally, professionally and academically.

The further indicates that for males without the presence of a father, mentors such as coaches, teachers, church members and stepfathers can have a positive impact on their future.

“We should be not only coaches and cheerleaders in athletic activities but coaches and cheerleaders academically as well,” said Odell Brown, Project M.A.L.E.’s program director.

The initiative is a Southern Dallas-based program centered on bettering minority males in the community through its partnership with President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program, Lancaster ISD, and Desoto ISD.

“It’s about getting young men ready to be what they want to be and not what society wants them to be,” said a Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet student who is a fourth-year project participant.

Since the start of its program in 2014 at Inspiring Body of Christ Church, M.A.L.E. has served 100 male students between the ages of 5 and 14 one Saturday each month through group mentorship courses and college tours covering career exploitation, cultural heritage, higher education prep, table etiquette and more.

“I remember when we did [etiquette class] I used to always put my elbows on the table, but I never knew that was disrespectful and rude until I came to the program and was told the right thing to do,” said Brian, Edison Learning Center student and third-year participant. “That really helped me a lot. Now, I’m eating better, and I’m respectful at the table.”

African American boys face many challenges before they are become adults. By age 2, disparities become very apparent between Black children and White children, according to a U.S. News World report.

Young Black men are improving and deteriorating in certain areas academically. About 35 percent of Black males are graduating high school, and over 1.4 million Black males were enrolled as college students in 2013, according to BlackDemographics.com. However, not many Black men are finishing college.

“A vast majority of African American males continue to be in a crisis, and it’s not up to its full potential educationally, socially, and emotionally,” Brown said. “Project MALE isn’t just the fight for the African American male but to provide educational opportunities for them to build character, culture, self-efficiency, leadership, healthy lifestyles, financial literacy, and community service.”

Minority-centered mentor programs are essential to the growth of minority boys. About 76 percent of at-risk young adults who had a mentor aspire to enroll and graduate from college, and 51 percent of at-risk young adults with mentors held leadership positions in different school groups.

Guidance in all areas of young African Americans’ lives is necessary, whether it is from family members or local people in the community.

“We believe these young men should not only have thickness of the body but thickness of the mind,” Brown said.