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We Got Male: LSU Program Hosts Preview Day for Black Male Teens

According to a national study conducted by Shaun Harper, an associate professor and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, 74.3 percent of black males ages 18-24 complete high school, but only 33.8 percent of black male high school graduates ages 18-24 enroll in college, and make up only 10.4 percent of total male undergraduate students. As Louisiana's flagship institution, LSU is trying to change those statistics and make a difference in the lives of black males.

More than 90 black male students from local schools attended the inaugural LSU Preview Day to learn more about the requirements to attend LSU, tour the campus and meet with former LSU basketball standout and current member of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats Tyrus Thomas.
Eddy Perez/University Relations

During Homecoming Week in November, the LSU Black Male Leadership Initiative, or BMLI, hosted its inaugural LSU Preview Day. The program was designed to provide young black males with an insight into college life. With increasing admission standards at LSU and universities across the nation, the Preview Day also encouraged the participants to begin preparing for college while they are in high school.

"Having students experience LSU through the BMLI Preview Day gives middle and high school students a first-hand look at what it takes to attend a flagship institution," said Chaunda Allen, director of the LSU Office of Multicultural Affairs and co-director of the BMLI Fellows Program. "In particular, having young black men spend the day at LSU demonstrates the university's commitment to seeing black men succeed at every point of educational pipeline."

Since 2007, the percentage of black male students enrolling at LSU as part of the incoming class has risen steadily. In 2007, 158 of the 4,596 incoming freshmen were black males, or 3.44 percent, while representing 7.26 percent of the male incoming freshmen. In 2010, LSU topped the 200 mark for incoming black male students, with 243 of the 5,481 students, or 4.43 percent, while improving to 9.44 percent of the incoming male students. This fall, the trend continued as black males made up 4.63 percent of incoming freshmen class.

"We recognize the necessity of reaching and engaging black males at an early age, encouraging academic successes and challenging negative stereotypes associated with this population," said Marco Barker, assistant to the vice provost for Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach; director of Educational Equity; and co-director of the BMLI Fellows Program. "The level of engagement shown by the participants during Preview Day indicated that LSU is on the right track."

Mike the Tiger and Marco Barker, assistant to the vice provost for Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach; director of Educational Equity; and co-director of the BMLI Fellows Program, meet with the LSU Preview Day participants during a "hype" session in the LSU Student Union.
Eddy Perez/University Relations

More than 90 black male students from local schools assembled in the LSU Student Union to learn more about LSU and the admissions requirements they need to consider as they approach or are enrolled in high school.

"It was extremely exciting and rewarding to hosts these bright young men on campus for the day," said Barker. "The LSU Preview Day demonstrates the university's commitment to diversity and engagement, two pillars of our Flagship Agenda, and represents the beginning steps in supporting young black males."

The Preview Day included a campus tour, information from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, a "hype" session with Mike the Tiger, and a lunch discussion with Tyrus Thomas, a Baton Rouge native and former LSU basketball player who currently plays for the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, and Sevetri M. Wilson, an LSU alumna who is the lead community consultant for the Tyrus Thomas Foundation, Thomas' non-profit organization focused on youth development.

"It is when I had the opportunity to see firsthand, after doing a workshop on networking for the males of the BMLI Fellows Program at the headquarters of 100 Black Men of Baton Rouge, that I knew this program was special; different even," said Wilson. "I knew that I had to get Tyrus involved and that it would be through minority recruitment and retention programs that he could make the greatest impact for current and future minority students at LSU."

Thomas is a strong supporter of the BMLI Fellows Program and ethnic minority recruitment and retention at LSU. During his "tough-love" chat with participants, Thomas urged students to gain as much information as possible and to avoid negative influences.

"I am honored to be able to come back to Baton Rouge and be embraced by my LSU family," said Thomas. "Yet, I know that there is much to do when it concerns ensuring our youth have brighter futures and an opportunity to attend college. In order to recruit and retain the best and brightest and to give opportunities to all minority students we must support programs like the Black Male Leadership Initiative and Summer Scholars at LSU.

On Saturday, Nov. 12, Tyrus Thomas presented the LSU Foundation with a check for $18,000 in support of the LSU Summer Scholars Program and the Black Male Leadership Initiative. Joining Thomas (center) on the field were LSU Chancellor Michael Martin; LSU freshman Michael Carpenter; Thomas' wife, Jaime; and Tyrus Thomas Foundation CEO Sevetri Wilson.
Photo courtesy of Steve Franz

"We must come together in unity and in partnership to ensure all students, regardless of economic background or any adverse upbringing, are given a true shot at this thing [college]," Thomas continued. "These type of programs provide students with a first-hand look into LSU and give them more positive options for their future. I wish I had a chance to attend a similar program during my early teenage years. It is my hope that the Tyrus Thomas Foundation and LSU's partnership regarding minority recruitment strengthens over time to help many more, with, of course, your help."

The participating schools included McKinley Middle Magnet School, East Baton Rouge Lab Academy, Mentorship Academy of Baton Rouge, Scotlandville Magnet High School, Pointe Coupee Central High School and the Glen Oaks Institute of Science. Students had to be enrolled in seventh, eighth or ninth grades to participate. Volunteers for Preview Day included students, faculty and staff from across LSU's campus.

The LSU Preview Day was hosted by the BMLI Fellows Program and sponsored by the Office of Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach; Office of Multicultural Affairs; and Residential Life. BMLI is a campus-wide initiative aimed at assisting LSU in reconceptualizing recruitment, educational practices, programs and engagement with students in general, and black males in particular.

Barker chairs the BMLI core team and serves with Allen as co-director of the BMLI Fellows Program. The BMLI Fellows Program also receives support from LSU Career Services through the IBM Diversity Fund.

For more information regarding LSU Preview Day and the BMLI Fellows Program, visit www.lsu.edu/bmli, or contact Allen or Barker at bmli@lsu.edu.

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