UT-Austin Latino diversity initiative Project MALES celebrates 10-year anniversary

Kaushiki Roy

UT program Project MALES, which supports Latino educational success, celebrated its tenth anniversary this Thursday. 

Project MALES, Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success, is a research-based initiative that connects undergraduate students from UT with middle and high school men of color, said program coordinator Rodrigo Aguayo.

Aguayo said the program is designed to form a network between UT undergraduates and middle and high school boys that support them in finishing high school and attending college after graduation.

“Across different cross pathways K-12 and higher, you’ll find that a lot of our young men are not persisting, dropping out of school or being pushed out and labeled as a problem,” Project MALES director Emmet Campos said. 

The team celebrated through a Facebook livestream on Thursday, where organization staff and faculty discussed achievements such as presenting research at American Educational Research Association and Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education and awarded honors to key members of the project. 

Project MALES began in 2011 under co-founders Victor Sáenz, UT’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy chair, and Luis Ponjuan, associate professor at Texas A&M University. 

“Throughout my 5 years with Project MALES, I have worked with teams of up to more than 70 mentors and with dozens of young men at the schools,” Aguayo said. “We hope that being part of Project MALES has given both our mentors and our mentees skills that they can apply to their future careers and leadership roles.”

Campos said the program includes a research division, consortium and mentorship network. Additionally, they created their own UGS course, Latinx Males in K-12 and Higher Education, which addresses the challenges faced by young men of color through a social and economic lens, and established a Maymester to Pueblo, Mexico. 

The program also hosts an annual student workshop called the Texas Male Student Leadership Summit where 300-400 students are invited to UT to network, said Rico Gonzalez, administrative program coordinator for the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color.

Although Project MALES has been virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic, Project MALES will work with school districts to see if they can go back to in-person events this fall, Aguayo said.

“Whichever way mentoring takes place, we will continue to the mission and vision of our work, to support both our mentors and mentees to the best of our abilities and to continue to be a resource to the Austin community,” Aguayo said.