By Taliah McGuire, Contributing Writer
As the community wraps up 2021, the idea of new beginnings, success, and wealth all look brighter than ever in the upcoming new year. But with the ongoing pandemic continuously knocking down doors, many find it much harder than usual to achieve their future goals.
With over a decade of trailblazing under their belts, the progressive nonprofit African American Male Education Network & Development (A²MEND) organization has been successfully guiding Black male students in to and through the California community college system. And for the past two years, A²MEND has been fighting the pandemic and pushing even harder to get underserved Black men the education they deserve.
A²MEND matches students with trained mentors based on compatibility and similar career paths in order to maximize success rates. During covid, over 70% of male have stayed in college, and most transferred to a Cal State, a UC, or an HBCU.
Dr. Abdimalik Buul, Vice President of A²MEND, explained how dating all the way back to the Central Park Five, there has been a systematic denigration of the existence of Black men. He says, “Black men are always being targeted, [but] who’s educating Black men? The stats show the proof.”
Statistically, Black male student entrance and graduation rates have declined as the years progress. “The mission is to charter a new path to show Black men what they can be, not what they’re predestined to be,” Buul states.
When asked about young Black men being motivated to thrive in community college during these times, Buul answered,
“Yeah, that’s the challenge… I think the motivation is there, but [the question really is] are we able to remove the barriers that prohibit them from succeeding? We have to get them to see their true potential so they can believe us when we say, ‘You are a king’ and ‘You have a bright future ahead of you’.”
“[Getting students in to the program and getting students to finish the program] are not mutually exclusive, they are both the goal… We have to find retention… Ask what’s making them come back? What’s making them not come back? [We need to] establish resources and push them through to finish line… We can’t just recruit people without having a clear eye of the end goal, you know? Whether it’s financial aid, food pantries, basic need resources, internships, tutoring… We want to do what’s going to be the best for them in the long run.”
A²MEND has given over $500k in scholarships, offered many networking opportunities, and even presents study abroad opportunities by taking students to Africa so they can learn about their ancestors and “tap in to their genius.”
If Dr. Buul and the rest of A²MEND could receive anything, they would ask for more funding to broaden their impact.
“We all just want to support Black males and really leverage their opportunities to succeed… We want thousands [of new mentees] not hundreds… We have charters embedded with over 20 colleges… There’s a mentorship academy that we’d love to expand… We’d love to show kids from Inglewood and from Compton that we can have more.”
A²MEND is holding the nation’s largest annual African American Male Summit March 2-4, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. There will be many honorable guest speakers appearing and A²MEND invites all educators and community members to come out and support with 1,000+ other students and professionals. More information is available at their website and their Instagram.