Bethune Cookman University
“We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.” - Dr. Mary McCleod Bethune
(Black PR Wire) At Bethune-Cookman University, we not only educate the minds of the young men and women who enrich our campus, we also nurture their whole being.
Welcome to Male Development Initiatives, a BCU department designed to help young men discover and reach their fullest potential through academic excellence, personal development, and community engagement. The department’s multi-level approach extends to boys as young as 12 years old to college seniors. (A women’s version of this program is currently in the planning stage.)
Led by director Mr. Jermaine McKinney ’96 and supported by a team of educators, mentors, and peer leaders, the Male Development Initiative is comprised of four learning communities – Black Male College Explorers, Brother2Brother, Black Males of Higher Education Think Tank, and Progressive Black Men – that meet teens and young adults where they are at in their life journey and encourage them to strive for the best version of themselves.
“We are here to help young men discover their ‘Why,” McKinney said. “Graduation rates among African American males have not been the best nationally. So, in order to keep those young men in school and continuing to persist year after year, we try to put things in place that keep them engaged, that keep them wanting to stay in school.”
The department promotes the overall success of the participants by addressing educational, personal, and social challenges.
“When you connect with something or someone, you find more in the purpose of why you are here,” he continued. “So, we’re helping them to understand and develop personal, social and professional skills for success. We want to help them find their voice, so, by the time they are ready to leave (BCU), they're truly ready to take on the world.”
What makes this program unique is the building block approach to helping men build on the new skills they attain through their engagement. Here is how Bethune-Cookman University is helping young men become leaders of tomorrow:
BLACK MALE COLLEGE EXPLORERS
Started in 1993, the Black Male College Explorers Program (BMCEP) is designed to change the trajectory of males in grades 6-12 through academic excellence and holistic male development. Many, but not all, are at-risk students needing a second chance.
Prior to COVID, the young men would come to campus during the week for tutoring and on Saturdays for enrichment. The program is guided by BCU faculty, but also students who are participating in the department’s collegiate-level learning communities.
McKinney said BMCEP offers a win-win opportunity for all those involved. The college students gain invaluable experience in mentorship and leadership roles, while the middle and high school students have the chance to envision themselves learning and growing in college.
Brother2Brother has been helping BCU freshmen and sophomore students transition from high school to college and navigate their collegiate journey since 2011. McKinney said young men don’t tend to speak up when they are faced with challenges. Brother2Brother helps them remove these barriers and learn how to ask for help. In addition, this group helps students determine a suitable major based on their interests and skills. In addition, they teach career-oriented skills, such as resume writing, interviewing tactics, and the like.
The ultimate goal of the program is to have the young men who were once unsure of themselves become peer leaders of the future.
“We focus on the five R’s,” McKinney said, “recruitment, retention, refine, release, and return to invest.”
Take, for example, Amaud Murray, who was featured in another BCU blog. A first-generation student, he reached out to Brother2Brother when he began to struggle during his freshman year.
“Now you see Amaud doing what we call ‘Lifting as We Climb,’” McKinney said. “He reached back to help freshmen as they are transitioning in, and he is helping them. He is out mentoring. He is doing everything that we asked of him. Our reward is to see the young man we see in him today.”
BLACK MALES OF HIGHER EDUCATION THINK TANK
Founded in 2006 and open to upperclassmen, the Black Males of Higher Education Think Tank builds on the skills, exemplifying academic excellence, leadership and professionalism. Throughout the years this organization has brought a number of activists and leaders from the black community on campus to contribute to the male empowerment at BCU. Black Males Think Tank aims to cultivate male students to foster a positive attitude by promoting exemplary character, fellowship, community service and personal integrity.
PROGRESSIVE BLACK MEN
With chapters throughout the United States, Progressive Black Men is a national collegiate organization whose purpose is to promote positive images of African American Men through “brotherhood, community service, humanitarian aid, and the development of high standards of personal integrity and moral character.”
McKinney said the BCU chapter was formed in 2016. In its five years of existence, the group has strived to increase the number of young men who are not only succeeding year to year in college, but also graduating from BCU as leaders in their communities.
“There are actually more black males in college than there are in prison, but society doesn’t see it that way,” McKinney said. “We are all working together just to increase the number of young men that are persisting from year to year to graduate, who understand our whole model of “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve”. Our men are succeeding. We want to make sure that people really know that that's the truth.”
McKinney has been at the helm of the Male Development Initiative at BCU for the past decade. He said he is continually amazed by the growth he sees in students as they journey throughout the years. He hopes he is having as great an impact on them as they have had on him.
“I love getting up everyday knowing that I am able to help someone. It's not hard work. It's heart work. It's a ministry. I've been working with males for so long. It's a part of life,” McKinney said, adding his various work experiences prepared him for this job. “So it’s like God prepared me, through all these different places, to bring me to this point today, of helping young men on a college campus find their purpose.”
In the end, McKinney said, “I hope the young men who participate in these programs take away the embodiment of the mission of the university: ‘Enter to learn, depart to serve.’ We want them to embody and become a better version of themselves, to be the change that they want to see in the world. Do not be afraid to lift as you climb. Pay it forward. That is what it is all about.”
About Bethuen Cookman University
Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship, and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement. B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000. For more information, visit www.cookman.edu