03/30/08 — Minority student numbers down at Wayne Community College

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Minority student numbers down at Wayne Community College

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 30, 2008 2:02 AM

Recruiting and retaining minority students concerns officials at Wayne Community College.

Despite support efforts, including the addition of minority clubs and receipt of a three-year grant targeting the problem, the number of non-white students continues to drop.

Currently, minority students comprise about 35 percent of the college's enrollment, said Bill Thompson, vice president of instructional advancement.

He hopes a "call to action" from the community will help.

"We can't do it by ourselves. There needs to be more done from an aspect of the work that's being done in the churches and the various assembly areas that our families gather," he said.

The college works hard for its minority population, Thompson said. The Minority Male Mentoring program and its counterpart for females, My Sister's Keeper, have been particularly effective, he noted.

"We have been working on this a number of years, trying to improve the successes," he said. "A lot of the support systems are in place. We just need more role models out in the community."

Data shows that adult male role models are beneficial, particulary in the area of supporting the lagging number of black males completing their college education. Such mentoring efforts, Thompson said, have been proven to ensure that students stay in school and succeed.

The term "at risk" has typically been used for those in middle and high schools. Nationwide, though, the trend is expanding to include college students of color and low income.

Three years ago, Wayne Community was awarded grant funding for "Achieving the Dream" through the Lumina Foundation. As the final year of that project approaches, there is still a need to improve the achievement gap and ensure minority students complete their education with a college degree, diploma or certificate.

Thompson said the college hopes to enhance its programming in the future. Next on the horizon is hiring a minority counselor whose primary focus will be to grow the number of students participating in college activities., he said.

"We hope to have that person in place and working by July 1," he said. "It will be part of student development. About half time is going to be spent recruiting these students, nurturing them, checking on them."

As a community college, it is only fitting to enlist the involvement of the community it serves, Thompson said. That is where a pool of volunteers come in.

"If we have role models that have been successful in whatever endeavors, we would probably have that person paired up with one or more of the students, maybe spending an hour or two with them a week," he explained. "We probably would provide them with training or mentoring.

"They could come on the campus for lunch, see what they're doing, almost like the Big Brother program -- regular contact where we're holding (students) accountable, motivating them."

Another option is to give students opportunities to visit businesses and see firsthand the variety of jobs that are out there, Thompson said.

It all boils down to one basic premise, he said.

"When you get more people involved, the better chance we have to help these young folks succeed," he said.