New UT Program jumpstarts education for young minority males

Victoria Recer

The program Project Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success (MALES) launched this summer in an effort to combat the disappearance of Latino and African-American males in higher education.

The program is an initiative of UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and aims  to create a relevant mentoring program for young males of color in Austin Independent School District schools.

On June 15, the three-day program began a one-day tour of the UT campus and two days of workshops. During the program, students learned leadership and communication skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond.

UT professor and director of Project MALES Emmet Campos said the program mentors youth by equipping them with resources to foster sociocultural development.

“Latino and African-American boys do not have teachers who they can see as role models in the classroom. As mentors, we support our students in showing them how to apply those skills they have in navigating the school setting,” Campos said. “Young people today are in need of having people in their lives who care for them unconditionally.”

By providing supportive mentors, the organization hopes to increase the rate of graduation among male students of color. According to a report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, the estimated national graduation rates for the 2012-13 school year were 59% for black males and 65% for Latino males, compared to 80% for white males.

Executive Director of Project MALES and UT professor Victor Sáenz said the low rate is due to inequalities in school policy, rather than a lack of ability.

“Males of color are suspended and expelled from school at higher rates than peers,” Sáenz said . “Latino males continue to face challenges in achieving critical higher education milestones.”

Fiscal responsibilities at home also play a role in their lack of academic representation, Saenz said.

“One common barrier for Latino males that may keep them from completing a college degree is the financial pressures they may be facing to help contribute to their families,”  Sáenz said. “They feel a more immediate urgency to be a breadwinner.”

Seeking to challenge these barriers, the UT project works to raise awareness of the obstacles males of color face, while cultivating a network of support and a college-going culture.

Estela Lopez, president of the UT Project MALES Student Council, said the organization provides support to young males of color by finding resources and creating an atmosphere of trust and inspiration.

“Through our mentorship relations, we can help them find the resources they need and lack,”  Lopez said. “We want to encourage them to follow their dreams and not get pushed back by all the obstacles going against them.”