Breaking Barriers: The Social Success of African American Males

I love students. I love education. I love educating students. This is inherently my calling and my internal truth. This is well known.

Lately, I have found a calling that has left me wholeheartedly satisfied with what I am doing as an intern.

I began running a small group at my site, Breaking Barriers: The Social and Academic Success of African American Men. Now, let me tell you, I was inspired and empowered like no other. I wanted to do a thousand things with a limited amount of time. I wanted to talk to these young men about stereotypes, respect, perspective, test taking skills, EVERYTHING! I immediately realized that I had an affinity for helping this particular population.

I calmed my nerves and narrowed down my group to five sessions with separate sessions on stereotypes, perceptions and respect. I was ecstatic and scared to death. See, here’s the thing about minority students, you have to earn their respect from the VERY beginning. From the moment we/they are approached you must show 1) you care, 2) you respect them and their perspective and 3) you can relate. These three arenas have become my best friend in my interaction with other minority high school students.

Back to my group.

I began my group and I’m going to be honest, the first three sessions were kinda raggedy. They were slightly inattentive and off-task. They participated but not wholeheartedly. I was just distraught.

Now, let me brag. On Friday, as an alternative to just listening to me, I invited the gentlemen of the Xi Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc to come in and try to speak some sense into these young men. Two of which had been due to graduate two years ago, one who was slowing slipping away and one who had it together but could slip if caught with the wrong crowd. I prepped them and told them that we had a young African American student coming from UNC- Chapel Hill to talk to them about stereotypes and they could write up some questions to ask. By this time I was still weary of the implications of this.

photoAnd then, the good Lord opened up the heavens and down the hallway walked not ONE but four fantastic members of Phi Beta Sigma. It was the end of the day… on a Friday. Again, I was still considerably nervous for what was about to happen. Down they sat and the panel began. The young men in my group were more attentive than they had ever been. They asked questions. They listened. They laughed and lawd, I nearly cried the entire time.

I am a prideful person. I like to think I can fix everything and everybody on my own. On this day. In that lounge. Sitting with this group of young men I realized that yes, I had done some good things but I had given them what they really needed.. someone who looked like them (except Mike Jones) who had made it. . . My heart exploded glitter and rainbows.

On Tuesday, we came back together as a group and I asked them to share with me some of their feelings toward the group..

What did you like? “Everything!” “I liked that they looked like us, they dressed like us, they talked like us..” “They were around the same age as us.”

What didn’t you like? “I liked everything”

What did you learn? “That we can make it” “Sometimes you have to get away from your peers that are clowns and focus on your education”

What do you wish you would have asked? “I wish I would have asked for their contact info so we could stay in touch”

What was your biggest takeaway? “We can do it” “I can make it”

They then continued to ask me when they were coming back. Could I bring in other people. And even gave me suggestions on who they wanted to talk to.

If there ever was a time that I questioned my chosen path, these young men confirmed that I was in the right spot.

You never know the impact you can have on someone. Something so simple as a thirty minute panel.

Forever thankful and grateful for fantastic people and young men who constantly give back!

Shoutout to the Xi Gamma Sigmas!

xoxo

Miss Locklear

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