By: Dr. John M. Rudley,
President, Texas Southern University
The opening words of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities—“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”—aptly applies to the fortunes of African-Americans in the 21st Century. Social gains evidenced by the election of this nation’s first Black president and the growing number of Fortune 500 CEO positions occupied by people of color, are countered by unacceptable incarceration, unemployment and high school drop-out rates. In an effort to steer more Black teens and young adults away from a path of diminished future possibilities and towards one that encourages maximized intellectual and professional potential, two campus organizations—the Collegiate 100 Black Men and the Collegiate 100 Black Women—are making use of the resources at hand to not only experience growth in their personal lives, but to also inspire change in others.
Well aware of the negative stereotypes and sobering realities surrounding Generation Text—more specifically young adults who are part of this demographic—these two organizations refuse to get mired down in the log jam of debilitating statistics. Instead, the Collegiate 100 Black Men and Women counter this negative corpus with a reality of high standards, intellectual excellence, and an “each one teach one” mentality that allows them to serve as Goodwill Ambassadors of TSU’s mantra, “Excellence in Achievement.”
Countering the prevailing belief that today’s young adults are hyper-individualistic with no concerns for others, Texas Southern’s Collegiate 100 Black Men embraces its charge to confront the reality that too few Black males are going to and graduating from college. Starting with 18 members, the organization has grown to 120-150 in a short span, in large part because the program applications received expressed an impassioned interest by Black males to “do the right thing.”
The purpose of the Collegiate 100 Black Men of Texas Southern University is to implement mentoring and tutoring programs for fellow students and students aspiring to attend college. In addition, the organization seeks to improve campus retention and graduation rates while also assisting the program efforts of the 100 Black Men of Metropolitan Houston.
According to Darnell Joseph, the university’s network/communications manager and advisor for the Collegiate 100 Black Men, “Participants assist the parent organization with the development of the social, emotional, educational, and other needs of young Blacks who have few positive role models in the communities in which they live.”
The organization’s emphasis on mentoring seeks to create a more prosperous individual and group outcome, and has inspired others to join the movement. Shortly after the undergraduate-focused Collegiate 100 Black Men was established, Texas Southern’s female students demanded—and founded—a similar organization. Texas Southern’s director of alumni relations, Connie Cochran and director of internal audits, Charla Parker-Thompson, serve as advisors/liaisons for the Collegiate 100 Black Women.
“We provide personal and professional enrichment and camaraderie that will improve the retention of our students so that more young women are able to fulfill their collegiate aspirations of graduating,” said Cochran. “The Collegiate 100 Black Women was also founded to increase the feasibility for minority students to matriculate and succeed as college students by becoming 100 Ambassadors to youth in the Greater Houston Area.”
“The Collegiate 100 assists in the University’s goal of producing ‘Excellence in Achievement’ by providing various personal and professional enrichment seminars that enable students to become well-rounded and succeed in all endeavors. TSU will help them get to the corporate arena and The Collegiate 100 will help students soar while there,” stated Joseph, the former president of the 100 Black Men of Metropolitan Houston. The organizations have participated in various community service activities, including the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Food Drive, Houston Food Bank, and Literacy Advance. In addition, the organizations have monthly campus programs, such as V-Day with the 100’s, a Valentine’s Day organizational public relations initiative; screening of HBO’s award-winning documentary, The Black List; and the 100 Look Seminar, a dress for collegiate and professional success workshop.
“The Collegiate 100 Black Women chapter boasts a membership of more than 115 young ladies who are excelling in the classroom and involved in extracurricular activities. The executive board is a dynamic group of young women who are really making their mark on the campus,” said Cochran, of the organization that has inspired other area universities to start their own chapter.
In commemoration of Texas Southern’s 85th Anniversary, the membership of the Collegiate 100 Black Men and Women have committed to providing 85 hours of community service. In keeping with their charge to create a more positive image of Black students at Texas Southern to counteract the negative stereotypes, the partner organizations will host a Raising the Bar for TSU Gala to recognize campus organizations that are excelling in academic achievement. In addition, an Achieving Excellence through Training & Development seminar will be offered in partnership with the University’s Office of Student Services. The current Texas Southern Renaissance of Excellence exists because the University operates with a student-first mantra, providing the academic offerings, enrichment programming, cutting-edge facilities and critical cultural and professional exposures to broaden the horizons of our students. Our Urban Academic Village, a pilot program made possible through a $2.74 million grant from Houston Endowment, provides the 400 participants with specially designated living facilities with 24/7 access to faculty members, counselors, library services and other supports. Our Student Academic Enhancement Services Office provides a litany of services to bolster student retention and graduation rates. With our SACS accreditation renewed for the next 10 years, the University is purposefully engaged in the work of producing the world’s next generation of leaders and legends.
However, the most effective weapon in our arsenal to win the global competition for the future are the young men and women who are intelligent, motivated and who have a world view that unapologetically hurls them towards excellence and success. Texas Southern University’s Collegiate 100 Black Men and Collegiate 100 Black Women do just that, allowing participants to share the sentiments of the anonymous author of these words: “Destiny is a matter of choice, not fate. Destiny is that which we create ourselves for ourselves, not that which others impose upon us. We do not wait for it. We create it and it is ours.”