The Black Male Leadership Initiative at Rice University has started a mentoring program to help young black male students increase their confidence, encourage them to purse a STEM career and teach them about positive models of masculinity.
“School-age black male students are subject to higher suspension rates, school expulsions and placement into special education classrooms more than any other subgroup of students in public education,” said William Edmond, assistant director in Multicultural Affairs at Rice and adviser to the group. “These disparities present an opportunity for mentorship of young men in our local community.”
Under the leadership of graduate student Lawrence Cimino and junior Noah Mengisteab, the group has created a mentoring program at Longfellow Elementary School. The program, Preparing Responsible Individuals Dedicated to Education (PRIDE), aims to build strong-minded students who are passionate about education. One of the goals of the program is to increase classroom engagement and decrease negative behavior at Longfellow Elementary.
The program has three components. The first is to build confident young boys by teaching them about self-awareness and interpersonal relationships so that they can foster a strong sense of self-efficacy. Houston Independent School District uses a curriculum centered on restorative justice to allow students an opportunity to reflect on what is happening in their lives.
The second component is to introduce young black male students to STEM education and career options through grade-appropriate science projects that stimulate their minds. For this purpose, the group uses a monthly subscription from Tinker Crate with different experiments ranging from disk launchers to vacuum chambers.
The third part explores the positive norms of masculinity by having students explore and critique representations of young boys and men in their lives. Using the documentary “The Mask You Live In,” the group organizes activities for students to examine how they have been unconsciously socialized to masculinity.
In addition to the mentoring sessions, the Black Male Leadership Initiative hosted almost 200 students from Longfellow for a College Preview Day at Rice. The students toured the campus and got to see the Rice Memorial Center, Fondren Library, Tudor Fieldhouse, residential colleges and Lovett Hall, among other buildings. Students ate lunch with college students and asked questions about the day-to-day life of a college student. The day included a panel discussion in which college students emphasized the importance of making good decisions and how decisions can affect you later in life. Garland Spiller, the school counselor at Longfellow Elementary, said, “Thank you for helping our kids have a wonderful and memorable experience that many of them will remember for the rest of their lives.”