AAMI is making a difference
Reception celebrates academic achievement and graduation of University’s African-American males
KENNESAW, Ga. (May 13, 2016) — A group of Kennesaw State University students are positioning themselves to be leaders in the community through their involvement in the African-American Male Initiative (AAMI), Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said at a recent reception celebrating the young men who have participated in the Kennesaw State AAMI program during the past year, including those who are about to graduate.
“I am so proud of you,” Reed told the students. “One of the things that we don’t do enough, certainly as black men, is just pause and acknowledge young men who are being exemplars.”
Reed was one of several prominent state and local leaders who attended the AAMI reception at KSU’s Prillaman Hall. Among them were University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, Kennesaw State Provost Ken Harmon, KSU Foundation Trustee Theodore Parrish, Rep. David Wilkerson of Powder Springs and Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus, a 42-year veteran of the Georgia General Assembly.
Arlethia Perry-Johnson, Kennesaw State’s vice president of strategic communications and marketing and the director of the University System of Georgia’s African-American Male Initiative, told the gathered students: “The participation of these leaders shows you what this celebration means tonight. You deserve this recognition for all of your hard work, and for the bright path you have carved for yourselves.”
Reed encouraged the students to continue down that path, telling them “the first step toward excellence and achievement is a decision to do something.” They then must take positive action on their choices, he said.
“I don’t think you came to Kennesaw State just because you wanted to be a manager or a vice president or a CEO, or a teacher or doctor or lawyer,” Reed said. “I think you came to Kennesaw State because you wanted to change the life of your family.”
Kennesaw State AAMI advisor Trace Godoy recognized eight students in the program who graduated this week during KSU’s spring commencement exercises: graduate student Dallas Evans and seniors Dorian Powell-Harris, Shannon McKenzie, Phillip Bradshaw, Bishop Nesby, Jamel Williams, Lawrence Adegoke and Marcus Gilliam. The students, who have a variety of majors and career aspirations,each received a Kennesaw State AAMI kente cloth stole.
“The AAMI reception highlighted the importance of higher education and community engagement for African-American males – the importance of supporting black male students in a tangible way, by actions and financial support,” Godoy said. “It also was a great opportunity to come together and celebrate the achievements and the success of an underrepresented population on the Kennesaw State campuses.”
The University System of Georgia launched the African-American Male Initiative in 2002, and it has been headquartered at Kennesaw State University since 2006. AAMI programs are now active on 22 USG campuses throughout the state and are dedicated to improving the recruitment, retention and graduation of African-American male students.
“Literally thousands of students have benefitted as a result of the USG’s AAMI,” Perry-Johnson said. “Both the University System of Georgia and Kennesaw State University are deeply committed to increasing the number of African-American males graduating from USG institutions – because one of them just might be the next mayor of Atlanta or the next president of the U.S., both of which have been shown to be possible.”
As evidence of success of the University System of Georgia’s African-American Male Initiative, Perry-Johnson said, nearly 31,500 African-American were enrolled at USG institutions throughout the state this past fall, compared to just over 17,000 in the fall of 2002. She added that the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred annually by USG institutions to black men has more than doubled since the initiative began, from just under 1,300 in fiscal year 2003 to more than 2,700 last year.
Kennesaw State has experienced a 70 percent increase in black male student enrollment and a 73 percent surge in the number of degrees earned by black men in that same period. The 3,118 black male students enrolled last year represented nine percent of KSU’s total student population.
Kennesaw State’s African-American Male Initiative is a partnership among faculty, staff and students. The goal of increasing enrollment, retention and graduation rates among African-American males is accomplished through mentoring, leadership development and the celebration of academic and leadership achievements.
One initiative at KSU is the AAMI Ambassador Program, in which student leaders mentor other black male students and connect them with campus resources. Another example is IMPACT, a summer program to give first-year African-American male students an edge in their transition to college life. IMPACT students live on campus, take tours and attend seminars and social activities prior to the start of fall semester.
“AAMI participation at Kennesaw State is growing as students continue to discover the program,” Godoy said. “In the 2015-16 year alone, participation increased from 25 to nearly 60 black men.”
Powell-Harris, one of Kennesaw State’s 2015-16 AAMI Ambassadors, helped Godoy organize the reception. He said the event’s purpose “was not only to highlight the mission of AAMI but to inspire African-American gentlemen, and all students of color on our campus, to keep reaching higher because the path to greatness never ends. I am confident that I obtained my goal because I too was inspired to continue the pursuit of higher achievement.”
Perry-Johnson commended the “strong foundation” laid by Nicole Phillips, the first leader of Kennesaw State’s AAMI program, and Brent Obleton, a program alumnus who then served as the University’s AAMI director. Reed and Perry-Johnson also both praised Chancellor Huckaby for being a tremendous supporter of the African-American Male Initiative.
“One of the things that we have to start doing in academia is not just talking about the lesson plan; we have to have a dream plan,” Reed said. “It is the dream that empowers and lifts us to academic education and excellence.”
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.