The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Mentors help at-risk students succeed

By ashley Johnson/reporter

TR freshman Dayron Owens said his first year at TCC was difficult because he had no one to push him.

But a new mentoring program on TR Campus that aims to keep African-American males in school and lead them to a successful future has helped turn that around for him, he said.

“Now that I have someone behind me, it’s making it very easy for me to be successful in school,” he said. “Seeing other successful black men gives me the drive to let me know that it’s possible to be successful in this world and be African-American.”

The African-American Male Mentoring program was launched in August by TR academic advisor Freddie Sandifer III. While researching, he noticed that African-American and Latino males were shown to do worse academically, and their dropout rate was high, he said.

“Stats show that the TR Campus had 250 African-American males start college in the previous year,” he said. “By the end of the year, we lost 100 of those students.”

In a meeting for Achieving the Dream, an initiative to make a college education possible for minorities and low-income students, Sandifer questioned what was being done to help better serve African-American and Latino males. He was challenged to come up with something to begin solving the issue. His answer was the mentoring program, he said. 

“So many times, they have been told that they ‘can’t do anything’ and ‘you don’t have it,’ so we’re taking a different approach,” he said. “We’re telling them, ‘You

can do it.’ We’re building them up. We’re telling them, ‘You’re a brilliant brother. This is what you’re lacking, and I’m going to show you how to obtain it, and you’re going to soar.”

The overall success rate of African-American males in colleges nationwide is low, and the mentoring program aims to motivate these students to stay in school and finish, Sandifer said.

Sophomore Cedric Landers said it would be harder for him to stay focused on school and stay on top of his grades without his mentor.

“One thing the program is preaching is to stay in school and get your education, so I will stay in school,” he said.

Sandifer said a student’s family situation can affect his success.

“Ninety percent of the mentees come from single-parent homes, so the mentoring program is giving these young men a strong male figure,” he said.

The national retention rate of African-American males is so low because many don’t have a male figure in the home, Sandifer said.

Many are taken care of by their mothers, and it puts them into a mentality that people will always take care of them. Or, they work so much they cannot go to school because they believe working and getting money is more important, he said.

Through the mentoring program, Sandifer said the students will receive the tools to take care of themselves, and emphasis will be put on education as the best way out of the situation.

“We don’t want you to think you’re going to get a handout,” he said. “We’re going to equip you so you can be successful and control your own destiny.”

Currently, 12 to 15 African-American male students participate in the program, and each has his own mentor. The male mentors are African-American professionals from TR Campus and the district office. Mentees must meet with their mentors once a week to go over their grades.

The mentors work with mentees to bring up low grades by showing them how to work with their instructors and by explaining the services available on campus to ensure students do well academically. The key to their success is to keep the mentees constantly engaged and in contact with their mentor, Sandifer said.

Sophomore Roderick Shelton said he can always turn to his mentor not only for academic advice but for moral support as well.

“If you have problems, you can always go to them,” he said. “These are African-American men that are successful that have opened up the doors for us to be successful as well, so they can give us insight on what to do and what not to do and how to motivate us.”

Mentors include people from the district office, faculty, staff, academic advisors and counselors, Sandifer said.

“Everybody who is an African-American professional is giving back their time and effort to make sure that we can reach these young brothers to make sure that they’re successful,” he said.

Title III project coordinator Chris Douglas from the district office said the mentoring program provides positive communication between the mentors and the mentee.

“I had a mentor as an undergraduate student, and my success was positively impacted because of the relationship I had with my mentor,” he said.

The program gives the mentees a creative bond and additional resources they can use. Other mentoring programs throughout the district can use this program as a model, Douglas said.

The program provides the mentees with exposure to many different avenues of life, Sandifer said. They will visit the only African-American male-owned surgical instruments business in North Texas to see how a business operates and get tips on opening up their own business, he said.

Owens plans to transfer to the University of Texas at Arlington in two years and eventually own his own business.

“I’m benefiting a lot from the program being able to get help and understand more about the corporate world,” Owens said.

After a year of being in the mentoring program, the mentees will go into I.M. Terrell Elementary in Fort Worth to become mentors, Sandifer said. The TR mentees will help the children with reading, tutoring assistance and some big brother mentoring.

“The program is putting me in a position where I can be a mentor to other people later on in life,” mentee Landers said.

After getting his associate degree from TCC, Landers plans to transfer to Stephen F. Austin and study kinesiology.

“I plan on being a coach, and the program has taught me not just to be a coach but to be a mentor to my players,” he said.

Although having a professional mentor is the biggest benefit of the program, it also has other benefits, Sandifer said.

Each mentee will receive reference letters from mentors, the vice presidents involved in the program or vice chancellor Reginald Gates for transfer or scholarship applications. The participating mentees also will receive a voucher to pay for one of their books for the following semester, he said.

Monthly group meetings allow the students to share concerns, have rap sessions or go to events and seminars, Sandifer said. The mentees will attend a UTA basketball game, and they’ve had a retreat at Main Event. Everything is paid for through the mentoring program, he said.

“We want to expose them to the finer things in life to show them it’s not just the hood,” he said. “We’re going to take you through Southlake and Colleyville to show you how to experience that kind of life and to show you that your education will allow you to obtain that type of life.”

After the TR program started, word got out into the community, and the Fort Worth ISD indicated it wanted to start a mentoring program at some of their schools, Sandifer said. Meadowbrook Middle School now has a mentoring program based on the TR program, and Eastern Hills High School will meet with Sandifer to start a program there as well.

“If we can have an alignment from these young brothers all the way from elementary all the way to TCC, we’re not going to lose them,” Sandifer said. “That’s going to change and bring that retention rate up, the success rate up. That’s going to change the culture. And then we’ll be back on the path we’re supposed to be on.”

The African-American Male Mentoring program is on TR Campus only, but it is needed on all campuses, Sandifer said. He hopes to speak with the administration about eventually expanding the program to other campuses.

Sandifer hopes the program can help more students like Shelton.

“I think that I’m going to be able to finish school here at TCC,” Shelton said. “And I will be very successful from being in the program.”


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