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CSUSB student Chidera Okam part of network to help keep young African American men in college

Chidera Okam

Chidera Okam

By Jamal Eric Watson

If colleges and universities want to find out how to best retain young African-American males, they may want to consult Chidera Okam.

Okam, 20, a senior at California State University, San Bernardino has some concrete and simple ideas that he says can prove useful in keeping young Black men in college.

The upper-class Black men have to get to the first-year students before they drop out of school, says Okam, an economics major from Nigeria who has plans to go on to law school. We have to target these young brothers and educate them about what college is really like.

Seem simple? Perhaps, but experts say that these kinds of high-touch examples go a long way in strengthening ties between young Black and helping them to graduate at higher rates.

For the past four years, Okam has been a member of the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) on his campus, an organization founded by Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe in 1990, that has been a forerunner to some of the more recent initiatives focused on African-American men, including President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

Since its inception, SAAB has expanded its national presence and now includes more than 200 chapters on college and university campuses and in middle and high schools across the nation.

Okam and about 300 other young men mostly African-American gathered in Dearborn, Michigan, over the weekend with their faculty advisers for the group’s annual national conference. Over two days, the young men networked and talked during fireside chats about a range of topics from mentoring to community building. They also heard from actors Lamman Rucker, Dondre Whitfield and Halle Berry. This year’s theme was, “Transforming the Mindset … Redefining the Narrative.”

They say that the conference is an opportunity to decompress and reunite with others who are committed to advancing the success of other young Black men.

“It’s been an eye-opening experience,” Okam says of his participation in SAAB. “I am really committed and eager to reach out and help others coming along.”

These men hug and embrace. They’re not afraid to use the word love. And they openly share their life’s challenge, as one young man did when he reflected on being suicidal a few years ago. Now, he says, he’s on a forward path and has no desire to return to those dark days.

That form of brotherhood has caught the attention of national funders such as the Lumina Foundation, which has been a sponsor of the organization headquartered at the University of Toledo.

Amadin Agho, a marketing and supply chain management major at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), is a junior and attended his second conference.

At IUPUI, there are about 30 students who are active in the SAAB chapter. They get together regularly to talk about personal and academic matters.

“It’s amazing to see so many young Black men who are driven,” says Agho. “It’s also good to see that the SAAB family is growing and that there are new faces joining the family. We are able to lean on each other for support and that’s a good thing.”


 

Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at jwatson1@diverseeducation.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson.

IEABSE to Award Scholarships to Students across the Inland Empire

Black GRAD

FONTANA, CA- In honor of our local youth, the Inland Empire Alliance of Black School Educators (IEABSE) presents “It Takes a Village” 2016 Scholarship Celebration, sponsored by Black Voice Foundation and New Life Christian Church. The scholarship celebration will take place on Saturday April 16, 2016 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Jessie Turner Center located at 15556 Summit Avenue in Fontana. This event is open to the public with a $20 donation, but seating is limited. The Scholarship Celebration foreshadows the IEABSE annually hosted Inland Empire High School Black Graduation Recognition Ceremony (I.E. Black Grad).

The I.E. Black Grad is the largest High School Black Graduation Recognition Ceremony in Southern CA and will be held this year on May 14 at 2 p.m. on the CSU San Bernardino campus where over two thousand individuals are expected to be present. The Scholarship Celebration offers family members, educators and community members an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of local African American students. The scholarship donors are comprised of local organizations and businesses as well as individuals who desire to see Inland Empire students thrive in their educational aspirations.

Seniors from all districts throughout the Inland Empire were invited to apply for our “It Takes A Village” Scholarship Contest where winners will be awarded from $500 to $1000. Each application was evaluated on academic merit, community service, perseverance and leadership.

This year’s special guests include 47th District Assemblymember, Cheryl Brown, and Fontana Mayor, Aquanetta Warren. There will be representatives from each donor organization and the high schools of the scholarship recipients. An anticipated highlight of the ceremony will be “The Reveal” where students will make final decisions on their college/university choice. For more information please contact IEABSE directly at ieabse@gmail.com.

Social Lites, Inc. Host Inaugural Healthy Living Seminar

Front L/R: Joyce Smith, VP Social Lites, Inc., Cynthia Wilhite, Social Lites,, Inc. Member and Chairman, Edna Wade. Back Row L/R: Zonte Walker, Julian Houston, Donovan Ferguson, Tyree Walk, Courtney Wilson, Terrance Bradshaw, Brigitte Shaw, Twillea Evans-Carthen, Linda Hart, Ariella Houston, and Madison Gill

Front L/R: Joyce Smith, VP Social Lites, Inc., Cynthia Wilhite, Social Lites,, Inc. Member and Chairman, Edna Wade. Back Row L/R: Zonte Walker, Julian Houston, Donovan Ferguson, Tyree Walk, Courtney Wilson, Terrance Bradshaw, Brigitte Shaw, Twillea Evans-Carthen, Linda Hart, Ariella Houston, and Madison Gill

SAN BERNARDINO, CA- Social Lites, Inc. under the leadership of Bettye Brewster, president, held its inaugural healthy living seminar on Saturday, April 2, at the National Orange Show in San Bernardino.  According to the chairperson of the event, Cynthia Wilhite, “Healthy leaving is a lifestyle that needs to be developed and practiced.”  Daily monitoring of healthy choices will help to develop a healthy habit in balancing, nutrition, exercise, and rest.

Brigitte Shaw educated attendees to pay attention to their mental health as well as their physical health.  Dr. Steve Wilson of “In Your Best Interest Medical Clinic,” was among the guest speakers who inspired attendees to work towards preventive care to avoid sickness and illnesses, including heart disease by way of making healthy food choices.

Healthy leaving is more than diet and exercise.  Rest and creating healthy habits is key.  “The life in front of you is far more important than the life behind you.” Educational information both oral and written were provided to all along with healthy snacks. Participants left the event expressing the morning seminar was time well spent in a relaxed environment to “Learn, Grow and Live Healthy!