LYNN — Male students of color say the barriers prohibiting them from going to college continue to get in their way, so educational institutions across the city are working together to change that.
Lynn Public Schools, the Lynn YMCA, North Shore Community College, and Salem State University are combining efforts to remove those barriers, according to Audrey Jiménez, executive director of the YMCA. Their efforts are part of a bigger state initiative, “100 Males to College: Brotherhood for College Success,” which was launched to increase college access, enrollment, retention, and success for low-income male students of color.
Jiménez said the barriers include being a first-generation college student, living in a low-income family, not having access to the right resources, battling immigration, living in poverty, or dealing with issues related to substance abuse in the family.
“It’s nice for us to know there are people out there that care and that have concerns about the stereotypes that surround us,” said Lynn Classical junior Bolaji Odusanya. “We want to change those stereotypes. We are all equal.”
Odusanya has been class president for three years in a row, all while raising his 3-year-old son, maintaining a 4.0 GPA, and playing football. He said he didn’t have anyone to relate to growing up, which is why he appreciates the program.
Jiménez said the initiative hit locally last year with major help with from Denise Vinciarelli, the senior government teacher at Lynn Classical. After volunteering with Jiménez, Vinciarelli said she was enthralled with the program and wanted to find a way for her students to have access to higher education at a friendly level.
Jiménez and Vinciarelli organized the inaugural “Annual Lunch with the Superintendent” where the Classical students participating in the initiative sat down and had an informal meal with Superintendent Patrick Tutwiler. Vinciarelli said their goal for the luncheon was to empower and motivate the 30 male students who were handpicked to participate.
“Things are changing, it’s a new day,” said Vinciarelli. “As a community, it takes a village to get things done.”
While the initiative has only begun with students at Lynn Classical, Jiménez said they hope it grows to other schools in the city. Jiménez and Vinciarelli got in contact with Michele Cubelli Harris, senior special programs coordinator for NSCC, to create an accessible pathway for the high schoolers.
Harris said NSCC recently debuted a bridge program that has a similar mission but is targeted toward male students of color who are already enrolled at the college.
“Sometimes life can get in the way of these kids going to college,” said Jiménez.
The YMCA executive director said she hopes each of the educational institutions can combine their resources and ensure young male students of color can get themselves into a position to enroll in, and graduate from, college. Their goal is to host meetings, or fun activities, once a month where the selected students can engage in conversations and continue to mentor each other, she said.
“I want to congratulate all of you for committing to this effort,” Tutwiler said to the students. “I ask that you carry this forward and mentor the young males who come after you. There are no shortcuts in life, the only way you get to where you want to be is to work hard.”