Men of Success helps break down walls

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, December 21, 2016

With renewed funding, Men of Success will continue to nurture positive choices and academic success on and off Beaufort County Community College’s campus.

The minority-male mentoring program brings together a core group of tutors and mentors to help students achieve their goals with the least amount of obstacles.

The program is led by Bishop James McIntyre, who also serves as the pastor for Cornerstone Church of God. The tutors and mentors are either current students, such as Maurice Griffin and Gerardo Alvarez-Gallegos, or BCCC alumni, such as Terry Graham and Jeffrey Egerton. They represent some of the best that BCCC has to offer.

Griffin and Alvarez are both members of the Student Government Association, with Alvarez serving as president. Graham is the owner of a local business.

Each member focuses on a different subject: Griffin on positive relationships, Egerton on economic opportunity, Alvarez on positive choices and Graham on academic achievement.

The program helps counter negative influences in the lives of students. Some are lacking male role models. Some are inundated with only negative images of other minority males. Some are simply not good at planning and have not given any thought to life after high school.

“We share our experiences,” Griffin said. “We want them to have a better outlook on things.”

McIntyre said they want give their students “the ability to paint their own picture. We ask them, ‘What does it mean to be successful?’ We want to be a positive light in the middle of some darkness.”

Men of Success members also attend P.S. Jones Middle School, where they mentor about 20 students. As those students move into high school, they will follow the group to Washington High School. Griffin said they hope to work with BCCC recruiters to show student the opportunities available at the college.

McIntyre recently attended Plymouth High School with BCCC’s director of admissions, Michele Mayo, to help students fill out college applications.

At a recent visit to P.S. Jones, they discussed the case of a student bringing a firearm to J.H. Rose High School in Pitt County. They discussed the consequences of that action on the life of the student, the financial burden that his incarceration will have on his family and the suspicion the action will bring on his friends.

Griffin said that the students now have faces they can trust. “We had to show them that we were sincere.”

Now, the students are excited about MOS visits. They show up every Friday ready to engage in conversation. Students can discuss issues at home. Griffin said sometimes they let a student vent. They can address the whole group, or they can talk to the mentors individually.

Having mentors in his life “would have helped me to achieve my goals quicker,” Griffin said. “We build walls where we don’t share issues. If I would have had a sounding board, I could have arrived at better choices. The more we communicate with them, the more the walls come down.

“Going to high school in Creswell, I wanted to get as far from here as possible when I graduated. I remember thinking, ‘I ain’t never coming back.’ Now I see things differently. I had a student tell me he was moving to Wyoming after he finished school, and I asked him, ‘Why not BCCC?’ He’s not going to get more from Wyoming than here.”

Griffin said he has realized that many guidance counselors do not have the time to talk about college to high school students. He said that MOS might be the only adults talking to them about college.

The $20,000 grant from the N.C. Community College System helps BCCC’s goal to increase the number of minority males attempting at least 12 hours their first year by 20 percent. Additionally, these students need to hold a cumulative GPA of 2.0 and 67 percent of them have to complete their first academic year.

“We are building the track while riding on it,” McIntyre said about the adaptive nature of the program. The program will continue to change in order to help remove obstacles and remove barriers for minority males.

“I had a life coach,” he said. “I would never have written my master’s thesis if it wasn’t for him. Everyone needs someone to be accountable to.”