Men Who Mentor


Sandra T. Blackwell (fourth from left), Westchester County Press, and Paul Forbes (third from left), Expanded Success Initiative, surrounded by participants in the Men Who Mentor Program.A New York City-backed program to increase the number of African-American men in college is boosting student academic success, too. Students who participate in the City University of New York’s Black Male Initiative are outperforming their peers who are not in the program. “Our Black males are doing far better than Black males not in BMI,” Jermaine Wright, interim university director of CUNY Black Male Initiative, told Harlem News. “We began to look at the data, and students in BMI have better retention rates, better [grade-point average] rates and better credit accumulation.” 


The data, which were obtained by Harlem News, cover the period from 2010 to 2014. Nationwide, the graduation rate for Black men stood at 35 percent in 2006, compared to 46 percent for their female counterparts, according to an article published in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. A free program, the Black Male Initiative is designed to strengthen the pipeline to university and beyond among the underrepresented in higher education through diversity recruitment, academic enhancement and mentoring. The initiative hosts an annual conference on topics pertaining to Black men, such as health disparities, overrepresentation in the legal system, and pathways to a climate of success in education. 


The Black Male Initiative was the brainchild of then-City University Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, who, in 2004, wanted to address the dearth of men of color in higher education. “They were overrepresented in the criminal justice system and under represented in higher education,” Wright said.


Goldstein assembled a task force, which outlined a series of recommendations to attract and retain African-American men in college. The task force presented its findings and recommendations to the New York City Council, which has since ponied up the $2.5 million needed to fund the program each year. Today, all of the 24 institutions in the CUNY system have a BMI program. More than 8,000 students have participated in the initiative to date, with some going on to law school and doctoral programs, and others embarking on careers in finance. “There is a plethora of success stories that we hear about daily,” Wright said. 


Along similar lines, New York Black Publishers Inc., a representative body of Black-owned and -operated newspapers and magazines and their publishers and co-publishers, and New York MetroPlus Health Plan teamed up to honor “Men Who Mentor.” The partners jointly published a resource guide to assist parents and guardians in identifying programs for youth. The guide has been available online since June at