By Keith Heumiller |
LINCROFT–More than a dozen area professionals and community leaders came together to provide career advice, guidance and academic support to local minority students during the third annual Minority Male Initiative Conference, held Feb. 17 at Brookdale Community College.
The conference, titled “Setting Priorities for Career Success,” was co-hosted by Brookdale and the Monmouth/Ocean County Pan Hellenic Council and sponsored by Hackensack Meridian Health and Brookdale’s Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program.
More than 170 high school juniors, seniors and Brookdale students were offered a unique opportunity to network with area professionals, apply for dedicated scholarships and learn how to pursue their professional dreams in one of four different career clusters: STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics); health care and health science; business and social science; and communications media.
The day-long conference began with a series of talks by multiple guest speakers, including Brookdale vice president for learning Dr. Matthew Reed; New Jersey Council of County Colleges communications director Jacob Farbman; Pan-Hellenic council president Kenneth Morgan; assistant Brookdale professor Fidel Wilson; and keynote speaker Dr. Brian Roper.
The students broke up into groups based on their interests and were invited to dedicated career workshops hosted by a wide range of local professionals and educators.
During the lunch, conference attendees were also treated to a guest lecture by Comcast IT supervisor Kina Steele-Crawford and regional information technology director Reginald Anderson, who provided the students with a number of practical tips for interviewing, networking, applying for internships and setting a “career GPS” while still in school.
The Minority Male Initiative is designed to address a growing gap in college completion rates and career success between minority male students and their white counterparts.
“Each year more and more male students of color are enrolling in college, yet they still face enormous challenges,” said Lisa Savage, student services associate at Brookdale and a co-organizer of the conference. “We want to provide a comprehensive system of support and encouragement as students navigate their educational journey and move on to a successful career.”
While the percentage of all students earning bachelor’s degrees increased significantly over the last 20 years, the gap between white students and black or Latino students has grown as well, according to a 2016 report by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Between 1995 and 2015, the percentage of white 25- to 29-year-olds who had earned a bachelor’s degree rose from 29 to 43 percent. Among African Americans in the same age group, the percentage holding bachelor’s degrees increased by only six points, from 15 to 21 percent, while for Hispanics it rose only seven points, from 9 to 16 percent.
According to a 2012 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, only 34 percent of black males who enrolled as full-time college students earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, as opposed to 59 percent of white males. According to a May 2014 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 12.4 percent of black college graduates age 22 to 27 were unemployed, more than double the unemployment rate for all college graduates in the same age group.
For committee members like Wayne Boatwright, Meridian’s vice president for cultural diversity, the initiative is an important tool in showing local students that they have the ability to achieve great things and providing them with the support they need to get started.
“We didn’t have access to things like this,” said Boatwright, addressing the students at the conclusion of the conference. “When we stepped into those careers and industries and we were different, we had to take all of the stuff that came with that. We had to take the embarrassment, the feeling of being disenfranchised, all of that. So don’t pass up this opportunity. Really. Don’t pass it up.”
This article was first published in the March 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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