October 7, 2013
Student Group Black Male Initiative Launches Scholarship
Student and BMI President Lawrence H. Johnson, at left in bow tie, joined Professor David Fullard and alumnus Jay Marshall ’06, ’08, at the 2013 Metropolitan Center graduation. Fullard, together with Johnson, Marshall and others, led the establishment of the BMI scholarship. (Photo/Marty Heitner)
An initiative of a Metropolitan Center student group, the Black Male Initiative, the scholarship seeks to encourage and support the undergraduate careers of academically promising black men with financial need, and to facilitate degree completion for black men, a historically underserved population in higher education.
“The idea for a scholarship came up in a discussion I had with Professor David Fullard about honoring and remembering those who started the Black Male Initiative,” said Metropolitan Center student Lawrence H. Johnson, president of the BMI and student representative to the Empire State College Council. “Professor Fullard really got the ball rolling and the Black Male Initiative Scholarship became a reality in a very short period of time, thanks to his leadership and the support of several others in the group.”
“Deciding and finding the means to return to college, often after many years, is difficult enough, but the far greater challenge for the college and for many black men is persisting through a challenging academic program and completing a degree,” said David A. Fullard, Metro Center visiting assistant professor, mentor and faculty advisor for the Black Male Initiative. “The Black Male Initiative Scholarship allows talented black men with proven aptitude and ability to accomplish great things without fear that limited financial resources will inhibit realization of their full potential while achieving their academic goals.”
"The Black Male Initiative scholarship will help expand access and strengthen support for our students and that has everything to do with academic excellence and degree completion," said Cynthia Ward, dean of the Metropolitan Center. "I commend the members of the Black Male Initiative for their leadership, hard work and substantial financial commitments in establishing this new scholarship."
Student, alumni and faculty representatives for the BMI scholarship gathered at the 2013 Metropolitan Center graduation. From left to right they are: Student Lawrence H. Johnson, Keith Amparado ’88, Professor Robert Carey, Professor David Fullard and Jay Marshall ’06, ’08. (Photo/Marty Heitner).
“Higher Education has for too long been a dream deferred for black men in this country and finances must never be a barrier. The Black Male Initiative Scholarship is a unique way of leveling the playing field,” said Metropolitan Center alumnus Keith Amparado ’88, chairman of the BMI Steering Committee and member of the college’s Alumni Student Federation Board of Governors.
“As an alumni peer learning coach, I have the privilege of speaking with BMI members, and I often hear students comment on how financial burdens are a determining factor in being able to continue in school,” said Metropolitan Center alumnus Jay Marshall ’06, ’08, a founding member of the BMI and one of its first two peer learning coaches. “I hope this scholarship will inspire our men with a spirit of benevolence, that they will in turn give back to our community something to help make a difference in another’s life.”
A 32-year employee of Verizon Corp., Marshall obtained a matching gift from his employer.
Empire State College faculty members Robert Carey, at left, and David Fullard seen at the 2013 Metropolitan Center graduation, are among the driving forces behind the establishment of the BMI Scholarship. (Photo/Marty Heitner)
“With most of the club’s students working or having family commitments, the financial pressure to remain in school is substantial and by offering a scholarship, we can help ease the burden on those seeking to complete their degree,” said Robert B. Carey, Metropolitan Center professor and faculty mentor in historical studies.
First established through the generosity of Johnson, Fullard, Amparado, Marshall and Carey, the Black Male Initiative Scholarship seeks to encourage and support the undergraduate academic careers of academically promising black men with financial need.
The scholarship is available to black male undergraduate students who are actively participating in the BMI student organization. An award ranging from $600 to $1,000 will be made to one student annually.
Recipients must be enrolled at Empire State College’s Metropolitan Center. Preference is given to students who demonstrate a commitment to use their education to benefit their communities.
The Black Male Initiative, one of several active student clubs at the college, provides students a forum to share experiences, taps the strength of alumni and the college’s expertise in mentoring to better connect black male students with faculty and instructors, student services and, most importantly, with each other.
Beginning in 2009, educators and administrators at the Metropolitan Center put in place a program to keep more black men actively enrolled and thereby help them complete a college degree. The program leveraged the college’s alumni and its experience in mentoring and evolved to the student club.
Marshall and fellow Metropolitan Center Alumnus Ronald Day ’09 were selected as the first two peer coaches for the group. The two canvassed center prospects by telephone and email. As a result, many of the center’s students were interested in meeting on a regular basis and the Black Male Initiative was formed.
The club sponsors events and meets face to face on a monthly basis. Today, approximately 200 students at the Metropolitan Center self-identify as black men and are eligible to be members and receive services from the club. Marshall and Dexter Mead continue outreach efforts and support for members and prospective members on a weekly basis. Center students need not be black or male to support this community.
A feature story about the creation of the BMI appeared in the spring 2011 issue of Connections, the college’s magazine.
SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York.
In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career. Students engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to learn at the time, place and pace they choose.
The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at more than 35 locations in the state of New York and online. Its 70,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more. More information about the college is available here.