Many students struggle transitioning from high school to college. And, African American men struggle with this transition more than others, statistics show.
That's why Oakland Community College leaders crafted a program whose goal is to keep young African American men in school and on track to succeed.
"The goal of "Man Up," now in its third year, is to engage students early in their high school and college careers, make them aware of pitfalls they will encounter in college, and teach them how to surpass them," says Lloyd Crews, dean of the Southfield Campus and one of the program's creators.
"There's a huge academic gap between males and females and particularly, males of color," Crews says. "What we've found as educators is that it's important for young men to be successful from the start. If they come into a situation they are not prepared for, they often opt out rather than ask for help."
"One of the goals of "Man Up" is to teach students to not walk away from situations that are uncomfortable, meet challenges and get the work done," Crews says.
"The all-male environment has many purposes and one of them is to help them feel less apprehensive about saying they don't know something, because when they meet they are 'just a bunch of guys,'" he adds.
"Man Up" offers both high school and college students lessons that are personal and academic in nature. They include study skills, time management, note taking, self-advocating, healthy relationships and budgeting. It facilitates group discussions on personal responsibility and accountability, especially toward peers. African American men who are successful in a variety of fields are also invited to make presentations to students about their careers and the path that led them there.
The program has helped nearly 100 students in the last three years at high schools in Oak Park and Southfield and the OCC campuses in Southfield, Royal Oak and Orchard Ridge. High school programs usually last 12 weeks. The format on college campuses is that of an ongoing club where students take on leadership roles.
Gregory Anderson was a student leader with the "Man Up" program at the Orchard Ridge Campus in Farmington Hills. He graduated from OCC in May and plans to enroll at Wayne State University to study finance and communications this fall. He said "Man Up" helped him improve his leadership skills and to understand that leaders must embody the message they bring.
"Having to be on top of other students made me be on top of my own work," says Anderson, 28, of Southfield. "The biggest lessons were learning what it takes to be a man, learning what my responsibilities are."
"The program is a bridge for students that go from high school to college," he added. "This is a critical time and students are generally not very good at asking for help when they need it."
"The program aims to teach students what expectations are in college early on," says Jahquan Hawkins, Student Life Coordinator at the Orchard Ridge Campus and an advisor for "Man Up."
Hawkins felt drawn to advising the program because of his own difficulties transitioning from high school to college, he says.
"I was an honor student coming out of high school, but because I didn't establish good study habits, it was hard for me to adjust to college. My study habits put me at a deficit," he says.
He was able to recover from that deficit and now feels he is well positioned to help others with similar challenges.
The term "Man Up" was chosen for several reasons, Hawkins adds. "We want young men to make the transition from boyhood to manhood and be accountable. They are also expected to pull the next man up and make sure they get to where they need to be. "Man Up" also teaches about having a greater purpose than yourself," he adds. "The 'Man Up' program sheds light on the fact that you have influence over other people and you have to handle that influence responsibly."
With campuses located throughout Oakland County, OCC is the largest of Michigan's 28 community colleges and the 23rd largest in the nation. The college offers degrees and certificates in more than 160 fields including university transfer and general studies degrees.
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