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Eight students selected for Honoré Center 2014 cohort

8th July 2014   ·   0 Comments

Eight New Orleans-area students have been selected to make up the third cohort of young men accepted into the Honoré Center for Undergraduate Student Achievement (CUSA) a pilot project for African- American male development established by the Southern University and A&M College System and located on the SUNO campus.

The young men accepted into the program, all 2014 area high school graduates, include John Brown (Sophie B. Wright High School), Richard Brown (Landry-Walker High School), Lawrence Clovis (Landry-Walker High School), Keith Davis (SCI Academy), Rashad Fletcher (Assumption Parish High School-Napoleonville), Michael Hale Jr. (Warren Easton High School), Kerry McKinney III (St. Augustine High School) and Jamon Williams (Joseph S. Clark High School).

Project director Warren A. Bell describes the field of candidates who applied for the 2014 cohort this spring as “very competitive from the standpoint of their ACT scores, high school GPAs and their likelihood to succeed in a college environment.

“They represent those hidden stars that we believe are out there in our communities waiting to be developed into future servant leaders after receiving extra guidance, monitoring and resources to ensure their success,” Bell added.

The pilot project was funded initially by appropriations from the Louisiana Legislature with additional support from private foundations. It was envisioned by S-U System president Ronald Mason Jr. and is endorsed by the White House Board of Advisers on HBCUs as well as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Its namesake is retired Lt. General Russel Honoré (U.S. Army) himself a Southern University graduate who successfully commanded U.S. forces deployed to South Louisiana following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The program recruits NOLA-area male high school graduates who are Pell Grant eligible (to cover their tuition and related academic fees) but whose ACT scores and grade point averages may not qualify them for immediate acceptance into the state’s four-year colleges yet they still demonstrate the potential to succeed. That potential is supported by a combination of resources and other program elements designed to enhance their chances to successfully pursue a bachelor’s degree after completing whatever developmental courses they might need during their first year of attendance. In exchange for the support they receive as a forgivable loan, each candidate agrees that he will spend at least two years employed as either a certified classroom teacher or by providing some other services at a school in New Orleans or the surrounding area where a positive and well-informed Black male presence would be beneficial.

“We provide these Honore’ men with a structured living and learning environment on the SUNO campus that includes a curfew, codes of conduct and appearance, plus extensive resources and support to help ensure their success,” Bell explained. “That support includes providing their campus housing and meal plans, all textbooks provided, individual desktop PC’s for each cohort member, individualized academic advisement and counseling, life skills and other group sessions, a weekly evening speaker series called Manhood Mondays, plus a $100 monthly stipend to assist the young men with basic needs since they are not allowed to hold any part-time jobs during their first year.

Honor®r staff members are now planning a series of activities to prepare the newest cohort for entering this fall, including a Meet-and-Greet picnic event on July 19 where the newest Honoré men and their parents will get to meet each other and the current Honoré students. Plus they will be welcomed by S-U System president Ronald Mason who established the pilot project, also from their namesake Lt. General Honoré and other Southern University and local officials.

Southern University System president Mason, who is a member of the White House Board of Advisers on HBCUs, said, “We are excited by the prospect of sharing strategies with other HBCUs that hope to establish similar Centers to help ensure more success among their Black male college students.”

Such programs require an investment of substantial resources in each young man to succeed, Mason acknowledged, adding, “it’s still a lot less than what taxpayers in Louisiana spend each year to keep a young man incarcerated.”

Members of the Honoré Center staff and the Southern University and A&M College System said they remain committed to making a difference and meeting the challenge to demonstrate that as a state and as a nation we can not only increase the numbers of young African-American men who complete their undergraduate aspirations and become contributing, productive citizens and servant leaders in their communities.

The center said it is raising the standards of academic and personal excellence for young Black men and building a new tradition of success on young man at a time.

This article originally published in the July 7, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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