The Black Male Leadership Initiative at Louisiana State University has implemented a variety of scholarships, summits, conferences and other tools that are creating much success for young Black men at the university.
The LSU-BMLI program has led to impressive statistics for its members, known as fellows, as it has improved both retention and graduation rates for Black students.
According to the LSU homepage, the retention rate of LSU-BMLI’s 14 members in 2011 was 92 percent, with the following year boasting a 100 percent retention rate of all the initiative’s fellows.
While roughly 67 percent of Black male freshman enrolled in 2008 have graduated in five years of less, 76 percent of the LSU-BMLI members of the same year were able to accomplish that goal.
Currently, the projected 2014 graduation rate for LSU-BMLI fellows who were enrolled as freshmen in 2009 is 71 percent.
So what has caused this group of young Black men to excel?
LSU-BMLI boasts several programs, events and educational resources that the students can use to assist them during their collegiate careers, while also preparing them to enter the professional world after they graduate.
One of these programs, “A Woman’s Worth: Challenging Our Viewpoints,” allowed the group of about 25 to 30 young men to further analyze the way college-age men perceive women.
The panel sponsor and director of LSU Women’s Center, Summer Steib, explained the impact of the program.
“The Woman’s Worth program was an ideal platform to engage with young men about their perceptions of women, masculinity, femininity and relationships and how those perceptions have real-life impacts and consequences,” she said.
One of the fellows, a biochemistry major from North Little Rock, Ark., said the program “enhanced [his] perception of how to approach a woman appropriately.”
“There is more to a woman than just her physical features, and Black males need to be educated on this issue,” said Travoll Payne.
Other programs include the “Suited-4-Success: A Fitting & Dining Social,” and Preview Day, which allows high school students to see what college life is like for the Black men who are a part of LSU-BMLI.
First-year fellow and sophomore sports administration major, Tyriq Kellam, said the initiative has made a large impact on his life.
“If I were not a part of BMLI or other programs, I probably wouldn’t be [at LSU], simply because of the out-of-state tuition,” said the Philadelphia native. “With me being a part of BMLI and other programs, I feel a sense of worth in being in the LSU community.”
As of spring 2013, the average GPA of LSU-BMLI fellows surpassed the average of all male undergraduate students at LSU by over one-tenth of a point, coming in at 2.908.
Now nearly half of the initiative’s alumni are continuing their education at the nation’s top graduate programs.
“Too often we hear of the impact of the school-to-prison pipeline on Black males,” said associate professor in the College of Human Sciences and Education, Roland Mitchell. “Programs like LSU-BMLI show us that with continued support and guidance, ideals deeply rooted in communities of color, we can change this narrative and celebrate students such as the BMLI fellows who are doing outstanding work.”