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ABAC revamping program for African-American males


TIFTON-A group of students from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College recently toured several Historic Black Colleges and Universities as part of the kickoff for the ABAC African-American Male Initiative (AAMI) program.

The ABAC program is under the direction of Dr. Jewrell Rivers, a professor of sociology in the School of Arts and Sciences.

“We called it the AAMI-HBCU Road Trip,” Rivers said. “It was a very culture-enriching experience.”

The students toured Florida A&M University and the Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum in Tallahassee, Fla. as well as Xavier University and The Southern University of New Orleans, both in Louisiana. While visiting Southern in New Orleans, the group also toured the Southern University at New Orleans Museum of Art and the New Orleans African American Museum.

The University System of Georgia’s (USG) African-American Male Initiative (AAMI) is a system-wide initiative designed to increase the number of black male students who complete their postsecondary education from any USG institution. Its mission is to provide an integrated program model of academic, leadership, and life skills that supports any participating student to successfully complete each academic level and graduate.

“Many black males manage to get to the baccalaureate level,” Rivers said. “But from my experience as a black male coming up in academia, once I got into my master’s program and my doctoral program, they disappeared. You don’t see them at all. And I’m not saying that figuratively . it’s literally the data-driven truth.”

Rivers said the problem affects college campuses across the country and crosses all disciplines of study. At ABAC, 78 students were enrolled in the program during spring semester.

In 2000, the USG verified that state institutions enrolled a low percentage of African-American males in comparison to the percentage of African-American males in the population. In response, the system developed an initiative aimed at identifying barriers to the participation of African-American males in its colleges and universities. The end result was the African-American Male Initiative (AAMI), which focuses on the retention, progression, and graduation of African-American males at USG institutions.

“We had the program for a while and we recently got it back,” Rivers said. “It’s not something you just do. You really have to put a lot into it to do it right and be effective to really provide the service and the programming the guys need. You have to care, and you have to have a passion for it. This is purely based on my passion and the fact that someone had to pour into me for me to get where I’m at in academia.”

Rivers said that black students need help navigating and feeling like they belong at predominately white institutions. The program seeks to help students not only academically, but also with cultural and social integration on campus, and in the larger community.  The AAMI program at ABAC has five components: academic support and mentoring, life skills and career development, cultural enrichment, professional development and entrepreneurship, and community service and civic engagement.

“Our program is based on a strength-based model,” he said. “We hear a lot of negativity about black males. But in this program, we want to build on and capitalize on their strengths, help them reach their full potential, and incorporate a success coaching approach.”

Rivers said that he has a lot of plans for revamping the program, including partnering with community organizations to get AAMI students involved around town, visiting more AAMI programs across the USG system, and planning another road trip as well as a study abroad trip to Africa.

“Everyone’s excited about the program being back,” he said. “We’re trying to get everything up and running and hopefully we can gain some momentum and keep the guys engaged.”

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