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Mentorship program helps black male students find footing at predominantly white MSU

Courtesy of Tim Herd

Recently the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a report that found Michigan’s African-American kids are struggling in school.

There’s a nationwide disparity between the education kids of color and white kids receive. If kids of color end up at a predominantly white college, it’s not clear they will get the resources and support they need.

Tim Herd, a Michigan State University junior, is doing something about that for young black men. He founded Rising Black Men, a mentorship program, and joined Stateside today.

Listen to the full conversation above, or read highlights below.

On starting the program

Herd wanted to create Rising Black Men after conducting research over the summer on the opportunity gap in K-12 education. “What I realized was there are a lot of adverse effects on black males specifically in the K-12 education system and I see how that can translate into college and why the retention rates are so low, specifically at predominantly white institutes regarding black males,” he said. Herd wanted to find a solution to the problem and, knowing it wasn’t just limited to academic factors, decided to target the social factors as well. “I wanted to create that sense of belonging, that sense of support, and just provide a network so that, you know, these students could get connected and feel accepted here on campus.”

On resources offered to black males

Rising Black Men uses upperclassmen to help first-year students make the transition into college. The upperclassmen try to “provid[e] them with social support so that they don’t experience too much culture shock,” said Herd. The group also creates learning objectives, which will allow for wide-ranging discussions about life on campus as black males. Next semester, the 35 freshmen in the program will turn and mentor high school students in the Lansing area.

On the group’s future

Herd’s not done yet. “Next year, I want to establish an even longer pipeline, so the high schools will mentor the middle schools, and the middle schools will mentor the elementary schools.” After he graduates from Michigan State University, he hopes to stay involved in an advisory capacity. He also anticipates the program will spread to other schools, and aims to establish a branch of Rising Black Men at every Big Ten institution.   

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