Program designed to aid black freshmen

By Matthew Richardson

This year, the University is testing a pilot program designed to get black students more involved on campus.

The program, 100 Strong, is run by the African American Cultural Center. The program attempts to get black freshmen more involved in campus life by offering mentorship opportunities and providing a conduit for them to find out about various activities and events on campus.

Melanie Mills, freshman in LAS, said she decided to go to last semester’s protest of the “Tacos and Tequila” party because she was encouraged to do so through 100 Strong.

100 Strong is modeled after a program at the University of Cincinnati. At a meeting of the Association for Black Culture Centers, the University of Cincinnati gave a presentation that was seen by Nathaniel Banks, director of the University’s African American Cultural Center.

“(100 Strong) was a combination of what we had seen at the University of Cincinnati,” Banks said, “as well as … the experiences I had as a staff member (at the Office of Minority Student Affairs),”

By getting black students more involved in campus life, 100 Strong aims to correct some of the problems that plague black students at college campuses nationwide.

“We were able to get some funding from the chancellor’s office to deal with issues of lower retention rates for African American students,” Banks said. “So this program is designed to address that issue from the out of classroom experiences,”

According to the University’s 2006 Performance report, in 2004 the graduation rate for black students who obtained their degree in six years or less was 57.9 percent, meaning almost half of the black freshmen who entered the University did not leave with a degree. For the entire campus, graduation rate was 80.7 percent.

“The goal is that our students would continue to matriculate all through their senior year and graduate,” Banks said.

The University has yet to see if 100 Strong can help bridge the greater than 20 percent gap in the retention rate.

“The thought was, ‘we’ll try this program with a finite number of students,” Banks said. “And if it’s working, if we can see some tangible results with our evaluation of the student’s progress, then we will encourage the larger campus to look at this model and hopefully be able to add some value to the campus.”