Black and Latino Male Conference Focuses on Education and Making Positive Choices

Bronx, NY –  High school students were taught that college is the place for learning and preparing for the rest of their lives during Bronx Community College’s (BCC) fifth annual Black and Latino Male Initiative Conference on May 21, 2010.

Dr. Peter Barbatis, vice president of Student Development and Enrollment Management, opened the daylong conference attended by more than 100 local students. He remarked that men are measured by their kindness, commitment, integrity and hard work. They should not let life’s challenges prevent them from fulfilling their dreams. “Young men need to be more resilient in confronting the challenges of day-to-day life and maintaining a better balance in approaching family, jobs, friends and higher education,” said Barbatis. “Success in higher education comes from hard work and being focused.”

The conference also stressed that success in higher education comes from making the right choices. To help communicate that message, students heard excerpts from playwright Ina Norris’ inspiring off-Broadway play, “The Turnstyle Warrior.” The play is about a young man who rejects temptations to jump subway turnstiles in favor of making better choices in life. Students were later given a riveting call and response address by inspirational keynote speaker Alfonso Wyatt, vice president of the Fund for the City of New York. Dozens of students rose and joined Wyatt, and committed to maximizing their higher education focus and efforts.

“The Black Male Initiative started as a platform for CUNY colleges and our communities to highlight our role in addressing issues of education, employment and empowerment of Black and Latino men,” stated Bronx Community College President Carolyn G. Williams. “On our campus, we have taken a holistic and comprehensive approach, providing support and resources to enable both men and women to acknowledge and accept their responsibilities and to aggressively pursue their education.” Williams shared that since the inception of the Black Male Initiative program in fall 2005, the College has consistently increased outreach to the male student population. In fact, male enrollment has grown significantly over the past five years.  “We now stand at a 40 percent male enrollment in our student body, which represents an increase of 5 percent,” stated Williams.  “We are also seeing steady increases in retention and graduation.”

Alumna and staff member Easter Z. Wood received a special recognition plaque during the conference for her recent educational accomplishments. A 2006 BCC valedictorian, Wood received a five-year fellowship to attend Harvard University in the fall. She will be a student in the African and African American Studies Department’s Ph.D. Program. Recognition plaques were also presented to representatives from local schools who have partnered with BCC to help enrich lives of students and future scholars. Representatives came from P.U.L.S.E. High School, University Heights High School, Bronx Engineering and Technology High School, Urban Assembly Academy for History and Citizenship for Young Men, and Samuel Gompers High School.

 “As educators, we understand the fact that obtaining an education is critical to the survival of this and future generations,” said Bernard Gantt, dean of Enrollment Management and executive director of the BCC Black Male Initiative Program. “We want our youth to embrace the value of education and take pride in their educational and career oriented accomplishments.”

The annual Black and Latino Male Initiative Conference is hosted by BCC’s Student Leadership Academy for Social Entrepreneurs.

Founded in 1957, Bronx Community College (BCC), the oldest of City University of New York’s six community colleges, serves as the engine for academic and economic mobility for motivated students from diverse backgrounds and preparations. More than 11,000 students from over 109 nations are enrolled in 30 associate degree and certificate programs including Nursing, Radiologic Technology, Computer Graphics, Nuclear Medicine, and Business Administration, Digital Arts, Computer Information Systems, Education Associate, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technology, Electronic Engineering Technology, Liberal Arts, Marketing, Accounting, Human Services, Media Technology and Paralegal Studies. BCC’s 43-acre campus, high above the Harlem River, features architectural masterpieces of Stanford White and Marcel Breuer, as well as the Hall of Fame of Great Americans, the nation’s first hall of fame. BCC President Carolyn G. Williams is in her 14th year of leadership service to the College, which is located on a 43-acre campus at 2155 University Avenue at West 181st Street , formerly New York University’s uptown campus until 1973.

The College is home to initiatives not commonly associated with two-year institutions, such as the Center for Sustainable Energy, which promotes the use of renewable and efficient energy technologies in urban communities. The National Center for Educational Alliances (NCEA) ) is currently collaborating with South African Further Education and Training Colleges and universities to create linkages between these institutions and is also working to enhance student and academic support at the colleges. NCEA also coordinates the College’s global initiative which facilitates global learning within and outside of the classroom.

Bryant Mason / (718) 289-5208 /