U program to encourage black male success

Living and learning community will attempt to improve graduation rates.

Biochemistry major Allen Kerandi poses for a photo Friday at the University of Minnesota Law School. Kerandi will be a peer mentor for the Huntley House beginning this fall.

Simon Guerra

Biochemistry major Allen Kerandi poses for a photo Friday at the University of Minnesota Law School. Kerandi will be a peer mentor for the Huntley House beginning this fall.

by Jade Lomeli

In 1969, a group of African-American students occupied Morrill Hall and demanded a Department of African American and African Studies, more University resources and fair treatment on campus.

Dr. Horace Huntley, a participant and leader in the Morrill Hall takeover, is the namesake for the new Huntley House living and learning community for African-American men.

Scheduled to open this fall in Sanford Hall, the house is a new University initiative to combat the low graduation and involvement rates African-American men face.

“To name a house after me, is really about those who were actively involved in the struggle at that time,” Huntley said.

Huntley — a University graduate and former civil rights leader — said the struggle continues for today’s young African-American men. 

The program, a partnership between AA&AS and the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence, will focus on facilitating connections on campus and leadership experiences according to Patrick Troup, director of retention initiatives for the University’s Office for Equity and Diversity.

“I’m hoping it will be a place that young males see as their home away from home,” Huntley said.

Representations and reality

The house will be home to 10 incoming freshmen who will attend weekly meetings and activities with a peer mentor and different faculty members. The students will also be required to take a class titled, “Black Men: Representations and Reality.”

Troup said the course will focus on what it means to be a black man in society by looking at employment, labor, relationships and academic achievement.

“The goals are really to create a sense of community and connectedness, not only with themselves but with staff,” Troup said.

Allan Kerandi, a biochemistry senior and the Huntley House peer mentor, said generally environment affects how motivated someone is to get things done.

“I am going to try to get all these males to trust each other,” he said.

Kerandi said he hopes to provide informative programming for his mentees in order to help guide them toward their goals and show them how they can be a support system for each other.

     There are many factors standing in the way of people when trying to achieve their goals, Kerandi said, including the environment, relationships and the lack of access to resources.

“The benefit of this program brings all those things to the person and lets them choose,” Kerandi said.

He said the program gives students the tools to succeed so they won’t have excuses for not performing well.

 “In the end, if [they] get accomplished it is on [them],” Kerandi said.

Finding ‘love for the U’

Simon Ndely, a biochemistry senior, said he feels that the program could have benefited him when he started as a freshman.

Ndely said the house would serve as a good resource for freshmen so that they could be productive during their first year and “not have it fly by without knowing what’s going on.”

He also said creating connections on campus with upperclassmen was essential to learning and getting involved as a freshman.

“To find your love for the U, you have got to find how you are connected to campus,” Ndely said.

While being involved on campus is important to the Huntley House and its facilitators, Troup said the students will be getting involved outside of campus as well.

He said that some of the event planning and programming ideas include volunteering at a K-12 school or community center near the University.

“Good role modeling resonates with youth,” Troup said.

He hopes that, in turn, the youth the Huntley House freshmen tutor will one day attend the University or another college or university.

“Graduation rates of students of color, across the country, are low,” Troup said. “They’re not the greatest here, but we are improving them.”