Campus & Community / News

Leadership summit helps young black males tap their potential

Nearly 150 black male high school students from across Denver came to the University of  Denver campus April 6 for a daylong leadership and empowerment workshop.

The third annual Black Male Initiative Summit, “I Am the Master of My Fate—Inviting Young Black Males to Lead,” was sponsored by DU’s Center for Multicultural Excellence and the Office of Alumni Relations.

Young men in grades 9–11 from around the metro area were nominated to attend by school counselors or community leaders. Nominations were based on leadership and academic potential, personal strength, and desire to participate in a postsecondary education or career-readiness program.

The students chose from three programming tracks: Black Male Development, College Access and Career Readiness. Each participant worked in a small group with volunteer community facilitators—black male business and nonprofit leaders—to develop an individual and community improvement plan and strategize ways to achieve his goals.

“The students explored what it means to be black men in their schools, communities and regions, and discussed the impact they can have on others,” says Tracey Peters, director of the Center for Multicultural Excellence and African American Services.

Facilitators helped students set up action plans for community improvement and create accountability mechanisms for follow-up. Each facilitator will remain in contact with his assigned students to support them in their leadership efforts.

Peters says the feedback from attendees has been powerful.

“We heard from many students that being in a black all-male space was awesome. They were saying ‘I gave opinions, and people listened. I knew I had a voice, and people were really listening to me.’”

The program was started in 2010 by representatives from Student Life, Alumni Relations and the Center for Multicultural Excellence in response to research about higher education access rates and as a means to address challenges faced by African-American men.

“Research shows that African-American men are accessing higher education at a lower rate than other demographic groups,” Peters says. “We wanted to get young men to talk about college and make sure they understand that college can be an option for them.”

Peters says bringing the students to a campus and exposing them to college life helps them envision themselves in this type of space.

“Young black males need to understand their role is to guide, guard and govern the destiny of the African-American community,” says Michael Simmons, community engagement specialist with Denver Public Schools. “This year’s Black Male Summit was a great first step toward eliminating the dangerous stereotypes that undermine our great contributions in the community, the nation and the world.

“I truly believe our mission is clearer. Young black males can lead if given a chance.”


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