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Central Washington University

Support Programs Improve Graduation and Retention Rates of African American Male Students

Monday, April 1, 2019

Andre DickersonWith support from the Brother 2 Brother program, students at CWU in Ellensburg, Wa., succeed in leadership roles, says Andre Dickerson, director of the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement.

“We’ve seen [the program] be transformative,” Dickerson says.

As part of the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) organization, the extracurricular Brother 2 Brother program recruits roughly 45 new students each year out of CWU’s total undergraduate enrollment of 11,000. Research shows 86 percent of SAAB participants graduate, exceeding the average five-year graduation rate for African American men in the U.S.
Most participants are recruited at summer orientation. When they arrive on campus, Brother 2 Brother staff greet them with a welcome session, create networking opportunities with upperclassmen, and connect them with peer mentors.

“We’re able to capture those students before they arrive to give them as much guidance as we can,” Dickerson says. “So, when you get here, you know who you can contact with questions or concerns. They have someone they can connect with if they ever need it.”

In addition to guaranteeing access to information and support, the program focuses on ensuring all young men — male students of any race are encouraged to participate in the program — feel welcome on campus. Each comes with their own personal identity.

“When you step foot on campus, you think, ‘I’m a Black man, a first-generation college student, and now I have to navigate the stereotypes people may have,’” Dickerson says. “But then you also have to find confidence and a sense of belonging. You have to break through these theories and models to believe not only do you belong here, but you have value.”

Gutierrez, who has served as president of the program since spring 2018, says he became involved after approaching a group of “well-dressed Black men” who caught his eye on campus. The evolutionary biology and ecology major had been struggling with his identity as a Latino and with concepts of White privilege. So on a whim, he decided to approach them to seek their opinion on his predicament.

The men turned out to be involved in Brother 2 Brother. One was Dickerson and another was SAAB founder and CEO Tyrone Bledsoe. The conversation turned into an invitation to a luncheon and that led to Gutierrez attending the national conference in Detroit. Sitting in a room with 500 Black men and listening to some speak about their experiences, Gutierrez says, “broke my world view.”

Read this article in its entirety online at Insights Into Diversity.

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