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February 18, 2014

SSA symposium traces problems faced by black young men

In honor of Black History Month, the African American Alumni Committee of the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration hosted a series of workshops focused on the challenges faced by young black men called “Black Young Men in America: Rising Above Social and Racial Prejudice, Trauma, and Educational Disparities” on Saturday.

The event included a discussion on “College Careers and Outcomes.” Panelists spoke about programs that aid black students in their pursuit of post-secondary educations.

Dovetta McKee, director of the University’s Office of Special Programs and College Preparation, spoke about Upward Bound, a federally funded program that helps black males start the college application process in ninth grade.

“The whole idea of reality check and helping young people turn reality into dreams is something we do,” she said. “We help students answer the questions who am I, where do I want to go, and what steps do I need to take to make [my] dream a reality.”

Upward Bound gives students the opportunity to take college courses and informs them of current trends in college admissions and financial aid.

Marshaun Bacon (A.M. ’09) and Jason Story spoke about the two-year-long program Becoming A Man (BAM). Story and Bacon are both BAM counselors.

In 30 counseling sessions, BAM attempts to develop the character of its participants by reinforcing its six pillars of integrity, accountability, self-determination, positive anger expression, visionary goal setting, and respect for womanhood.

“Among their peers, they try to uphold an image, but BAM provides an outlet and confidentiality where men can express themselves, even emotionally,” Story said.

According to a recent UChicago Crime Lab study, BAM participants showed a 44 percent reduction in violent crime arrests and a 10–23 percent increase in graduation rates.

The symposium received positive feedback from its attendees. One of the day’s speakers, Monico Whittington-Eskridge (A.B. ’92, A.M. ’96), emphasized the role this symposium plays in a larger context.

“Since I attended the University, I understand how easy it is to get focused on things on [the north] side of the Midway, but it is important to get involved in programs that address issues in surrounding communities, and this is something the symposium addressed,” she said.

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