Home Health & Education TSU’S men’s initiative program fosters bonds, personal growth

TSU’S men’s initiative program fosters bonds, personal growth

by PRIDE Newsdesk
TSU junior Emmanuel Strickland, right. who is a current member of the G.A.P noted that he looks forward to being a program mentor next year.

By Alexis Clark

Within the Men’s Initiative Graduation Acceleration Program (G.A.P.), a bond was forged between Tennessee State University students and their dedicated advisors.

These advisors are more than mentors; they became father figures to students like Dwight DeBerry II, a TSU junior hailing from Memphis who holds the title of Mister Junior for the upcoming school year. Reflecting on his journey, DeBerry revealed that he had participated in the program last year and experienced firsthand how it guided students through the maze of life’s challenges.

Now DeBerry has stepped into a leadership role as one of five lead student mentors in the program.

“It’s more than a blessing to have three father figures (the advisors) at all times to guide you through whatever you’re going through at school,” he said. “I appreciate the men’s initiative program because I came from humble beginnings. I never envisioned the man that I am becoming today.”

The 5-week summer program welcomed a cohort of 22 young male students this summer. The participants engage in profound conversations about personal growth, responsibility, integrity, and learning how to navigate life while homing in on their conflict resolution abilities.

Heading the Men’s Initiative are program coordinators Martez Safold, Walter Dirl, and Dr. Andre Bean, accompanied by their newest advisor, DeSean Keys.  Bean, who is the director of the Men’s Initiative, said the program offers a curriculum designed to challenge and inspire its participants. “The program also emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary learning, encouraging participants to make connections across different fields of study,” Bean said. “Through a comprehensive curriculum, community engagement, and mentorship opportunities, the program aims to empower young men to reach their full potential.  With each passing year, the program continues to empower and inspire the next generation of leaders.”

Understanding the significance of financial well-being, the G.A.P. program also emphasized financial literacy. The participants were equipped with practical skills during week one to manage their finances effectively.

TSU junior Emmanuel Strickland who is a current first-time member, said so far the program has instilled the importance of budgeting, saving and setting a strong foundation for their financial future.

Strickland, also known as “Mille Manny” said he appreciates how knowledgeable the first week has been related to his endeavors. Strickland of Memphis is studying business information systems and is pursuing a career as a singer and songwriter. “The first week has already shown me how to have long term success,” Strickland said. “As young Black men, we need this. It’s important for TSU to have a program like this,” he continued. “This is a small step into creating generational wealth.” Strickland also noted that he looks forward to being a program mentor next year.

“I’d love to keep adding value to this program.”

The Men’s Initiative Graduation Acceleration Program launched in 2019 and since then has shaped many alumni throughout their college years. The program has also set alums on a path towards success, with support of their advisors, mentors, and cherished memories.

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