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Taking the Initiative

April 12, 2018

 

One on-campus program is tackling the issue of low retention and graduation rates among African American males

 

Coach Lamonte Vaughn, who serves as coordinator for The Initiative, leads a discussion on successful relationships at one of the program’s weekly meetings. – Photo by Autumn Manry

 

TAMARIA WILLIAMS

Staff Reporter| tmw055@ latech.edu

 

Some people say that getting accepted to college is a simple task, but staying in school and completing your degree program is where the real challenge begins.

 

The students of Louisiana Tech’s African American Male Initiative program at Louisiana Tech are confronting this issue head on.

 

“The primary goal of the African American Male Initiative is to improve the retention rate of African-American male students,” Kamani Jones, a senior biology major, said. “We do forums on studying, time management, accountability and mentorship.”

 

Jones, who serves as a member of AAMI’s associated organization The Initiative, said Sam Speed, dean of student engagement, approached him two years ago with the vision of starting back the AAMI at Louisiana Tech. By following the examples of AAMI organizations at various schools, him, Speed, coach Lamonte Vaughn and Tech student Corey Evans re-established the program on campus.

 

“He (Speed) needed me to get more students involved,” he said. “We started off small and two years later with the help of Corey Evans Jr. and Coach Vaughn, we were able to make it an official organization with weekly meetings ran primarily by coach Vaughn.”

 

Jones said the program helps black males matriculate through a college setting.

 

“The Initiative is a big reason why I’m still at Tech also,” he said. “I believe that AAMI has a lot to offer to not only black males, but to everyone. Women attend our meetings and white males do also.”

 

While the program continues to gain more recognition from students at Tech, Jones said they would like to continue to increase the involvement from students in the future.

 

“The goal as for now is to expand as much as possible,” Jones said. “We would like to have 100 percent participation from all black male students at Tech.”

 

Corey Evans, a senior architectural studies major, said the program aims to focus on the issues that surround retention, instead of listing the numbers of students withdrawing from school every year.

 

“Instead of focusing on the problem, we strive to give solutions to this issue and others that cause this issue,” Evans said. “We want the participants of AAMI to become mentally stronger and more knowledgeable on all the challenges they may face.”

 

Evans, who serves as the president of The Initiative, said some of the meetings have had both men and women speakers in the past.

 

“We do this because even though our discussions are geared towards the African-American male and ways for us to overcome various obstacles, we understand that some topics can help all students,” he said. “We understand that in order to best get some points across there must be another active perspective in attendance.”

 

Evans said the program plans to increase involvement from students through personal interactions and a planned interest meeting later in the quarter.

 

Lamonte Vaughn, who serves as the coordinator for The Initiative, said some of the topics of discussion at the weekly meetings were even student-led.

 

“I really just want the topics to be organic and give students a voice,” Vaughn said. “And there’s more topics that we are going to need to cover. We’re discussing our issues and we welcome an open forum for that.”

 

Vaughn said he would like the program to create positive outcomes for young men on campus.

 

“I don’t want this to just be a 6 o’clock meeting; I want this to be more,” he said. “I want to know that every black man on this campus can come here if they have an issue. We need people to come out and feel like they’re included and that they can have a voice.”

 

Vaughn said the program is non-exclusive and is open to anyone who wants to come and be a part of the discussions.

 

“We’re trying to increase the probability of success,” he said. “The possibility of success is endless, but the possibility does not become probability without action.”

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