August 15 2008
Thomas Beeler admits he has a few fears about starting college. He worries about interacting with professors, finding best places to eat on campus and keeping up with his studies while still maintaining a social life.
But thanks to a new Indiana State University summer program called One Up, Beeler and other young black males got a chance to experience college life and build confidence before the semester even began.
It's all part of an effort by Indiana State's chapter of the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) to increase retention and graduation rates among black males by providing resources to help them succeed.
"Everyone who enters in our organization, we have vowed that we will do everything that we can to help them succeed and to help them graduate from Indiana State," Jeff Brown, SAAB president and English major from Indianapolis, said. "We try to stay on their back, make sure they're doing what's right and always trying to be a bigger brother, a bigger friend and just trying to help push them in the back a little bit to succeed and to walk across that stage."
One Up, sponsored by a grant from the LUMINA Foundation, offered guidance and support to 12 black males who will be ISU freshmen this fall.
Beeler, an Indianapolis native who plans to major in computer engineering, now feels better equipped for the college experience.
"I've learned about everything from being in a relationship to how to talk to your instructors and professors during class and make a good relationship with them to, basically, college life," Beeler said.
Participants stayed on campus and had a full slate of activities each week including classes, study time and recreation. They also attended seminars and took occasional field trips.
Maintaining such a busy schedule prepared Beeler for the increased responsibilities he will soon face as an undergraduate.
"My number one fear was getting to class on time," said Beeler, a recent graduate from Lawrence North High School. "But since I've been in this program, I've learned how to manage my time well and be on time for each day."
Participants worked closely with SAAB upperclassmen who served as mentors during the five-week program. Each night featured a reflection time where participants were encouraged to talk with the mentors about the events of the day or seek advice.
"They work with the students cohesively on everything that they do in terms of studying, in terms of being a bigger brother, in terms of answering any questions that need to be answered about college," Brown said. "The mentors are there with them 24 hours a day."
Incoming freshman Aaron Brown, a marketing major from Indianapolis and graduate of Pike High School, learned a lot about college life from the older students. He also learned a few things about himself.
"They've really been teaching me about me," he said. "I've learned some of my strengths and some of my weaknesses in school. It's really been a growing process for me."
The goals of the One Up program are much the same as the goals of the SAAB organization, which encourages black males to take full advantage of academic opportunities as they work to excel academically, socially, culturally, professionally and in their communities.
Bobbie Jackson of Detroit, a graduate student at Indiana State and founding member of the campus's SAAB chapter, understands the need for black men to have positive role models and support, especially during their first year of college.
"We try to provide an element of reassurance when they're at that critical point of deciding to stay or leave," said Jackson, who is pursuing a master's degree in public administration. "We'll be a tool to keep them here."
Though they didn't know one other before starting the program, the One Up participants quickly formed a strong bond.
"It's fun because we all get to come together and joke around and find out more about each other," said Traquincey Wilson, an incoming freshman and Lawrence North High School graduate who plans to major in physical education. "We've only been here for a month, but it seems like all of us are brothers now."
Contact: Bobbie Jackson, graduate assistant for Student African American Brotherhood chapter, Indiana State University, 812-237-8898
Writer: Emily Taylor, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo and cutline: John Collier, left, and Rayfis Weather work together on a problem-solving exercise during the One Up program.
The One Up program on the ISU campus gave young men a jump on college before their freshman year even began.