Mesa is working to revitalize its downtown, and make sure artists still have an affordable place to live. And, musicians are now on call to play for hospital patients.
'Minority Male Initiative' helps keep men in school
Some call it a national crisis, and studies show that Hispanic and African-American males are more likely to drop out of school than other students.
The “Minority Male Initiative” was started at the Maricopa County Community College District as an effort to keep these men in school so they can go on to find a good job.
The Minority Empowerment Network (MEN) is made up of mostly younger minority students who regularly get together to eat pizza, compare stories about school and make professional contacts. They also talk about scholarships and dressing for success.
Each school in the district has its own chapter of the initiative. They allow minority students to brainstorm over strategies to keep their drop-out rate down.
“A lot of our minority male students still feel that Higher Ed is not part of their world. It’s still a white man’s world," said Floyd Hardin, coordinator for the district’s Minority Male Initiative.
"Often times when students, especially first generation students, are coming through college doors, they don’t what to expect, but if they know that there is one place they can meet every week that will give them resources and connect them with opportunities, then that place becomes a safe haven for them," Hardin said.
There are 160,000 students enrolled at the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges. More than 20,000 are minority men, and Hardin estimates only half of them receive their associate's degree.
"When we look at the numbers, what we find is that if we are losing 9,000 to 11,000 students; we are losing 9,000 to 11,000 jobs. We are losing 9,000 to 11,000 prepared individuals to contribute successfully to society," Hardin said.
Hardin said the students commute or might work and do not really feel connected with others on campus.
Martine Garcia, 19, is trying to change all of that. He’s president of the Minority Male Empowerment club at his college and said it’s a way for the guys to feel like they’re part of something like a brotherhood.
“I’m here for you when everything is good, but I’m also here for you when everything’s bad, and if you need help with stuff that is a little bit out of my way, then I’m willing to do that for you because I know you’ll do that for me," Garcia said.
Garcia’s group recently hosted a recruitment drive at Chandler-Gilbert College. They brought in a truck full of video games to gather students together to talk about the initiative. It’s a strategy that’s helped them get new members in the past.
“I’m a junior, I was born in Nigeria. I moved to the states when I was 6 years old," Osa Igbinoba said.
After he relocated from Minnesota to Arizona, Igbinoba got involved in the initiative while attending Glendale Community College. Now he is a student at Arizona State University. He likes the initiative because it challenges stereotypes about successful African-Americans.
“There’s always the track runners, the athletes or the rappers," Igbinoba said.
African-Americans also own businesses. They are lawyers, bankers and even President of the United States, and Igbinoba says he’s following Barack Obama’s lead.
“I want to be mayor of a city one day, and more likely I would love to be the mayor of Minneapolis. It has a high crime rate, which has a high poverty rate," Igbinoba said. "It’s where I’m from, and I’m very passionate about changing as much as possible."
Although it’s a relatively new program, the initiative itself has undergone some changes. Last year it was restructured to put more emphasis on academics, and it is being promoted more among college instructors and advisors.
This all seems to be paying off. In 2011, the graduation rate among minority males at the Maricopa Community Colleges increased 3 percent, and officials hope to see that rate go even higher in the future.
EDITOR'S NOTE: KJZZ is licensed to Rio Salado College, part of the Maricopa Community College District.