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The C.I.R.C.L.E., a unique student leadership mentoring program reinstated to focus on retaining minority men in college

In 2002, colleges nationwide began asking, where are the men? Since the 1980s, national and local college enrollment statistics continued to show a decline in the number of males enrolling in and graduating from college. When the numbers are pulled for minority groups, such as African Americans, the gender gap becomes even wider.

While a variety of theories prevails, one factor could be the past few years of healthy economy in construction and trades which continues to provide steady employment options for men whereas for women there is virtually no financial opportunities without higher education.

In fall 2006, North Harris College’s student body of 10,943 also reflected this nationwide gender gap trend with a demographic profile of 38 percent male versus a 62 percent female population.

As far back as 1994, Gregory James, a former NHC retention counselor along with Linda Mark, NHC counselor and professor, organized Circle of Men (COM) as a catalyst to offer mentoring and support to African American male students–one of the groups most reflected in the low college enrollment statistics.

“The group assembled and became a source of peer support,” said Mark. “These students excelled in their leadership and networking skills, confidence, and academics. The initial group and others who came along later have gone on to complete their degrees and are currently productive in the community.”

Recently, COM became revitalized and reinstated under a revised name, the C.I.R.C.L.E. (Charting Individual Responsibility through Changing Life Empowerment). The C.I.R.C.L.E.’s mission expands the support and encouragement opportunities of students taking responsibility for their success. 

The C.I.R.C.L.E. Student Leadership Mentoring Program is designed to provide academic mentorship that leads to excellence in the development of individual behaviors and promotes academic and personal success. The objectives of the program are to increase program members’ retention and completion rates by increasing the transfer rate to four-year colleges and universities, completing identified programs, improving self-esteem and coping strategies, and developing enterprise and leadership skills.

“The group has fondly adopted the name ‘CIRCLE of Leaders,’” says Mark. “We are not a student club, but a leadership and networking program. We try to initiate motivation, provide cultural enrichment, supply academic and personal counseling and teach them about community outreach.”

Reme Williams and Aaron Hall, two NHC students, are current C.I.R.C.L.E. members.

Hall, graduated from Klein Collins High School in 2005 and went on to play basketball for Western Oklahoma State College, but moved back to Houston after the first year. He is currently studying to become an architect and was introduced to Linda Mark, who explained how the C.I.R.C.L.E. could help him with his education and career goals.

“The C.I.R.C.L.E. can help one get on the right track,” said Hall. “The hardest part of college studies is really time management, between school and work it is hard to find time to study. The group helps you get where you want to be in life. It gets you into networking, because sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s really who you know, and the C.I.R.C.L.E. also helps with scholarships.”

In 2006, Williams also graduated from Klein Collins High School and is first in his family to go directly to college. Williams is studying respiratory therapy, but is considering audio engineering. He also has a deep passion for music.

“I became involved with the C.I.R.C.L.E. through Aaron, we were coworkers and he told me about it,” said Williams. “The group has definitely made me more focused. Now I feel like it is my duty to my members to try harder in my courses, instead of doing just what I want to do.”

What does Williams think is the biggest advantage of belonging to the group?

“All the resources that open up for you,” said Williams. “Not only do I have my fellow group members, who I can turn to in times of hardships, but I have deans, counselors, coaches and whomever I needed to get in contact with to ‘get ahead of the game.’”

Professor Mark continues, “It is crucial that we, as community leaders and campus faculty, stress to black male students the importance of leadership on campus and just keep them all involved. The C.I.R.C.L.E. is committed to providing services that lead to excellence in the development of individual behaviors and promote collegiate and personal success.”

Also involved is Jimmy Adams, North Harris College's acting dean of workforce education and training.

“I became interested in the C.I.R.C.L.E. about five years ago. It was personally important to me to give back and inspire young males. As a minority, I like the idea of being a role model. I too, came from a humble background where there were significant odds against me completing high school much less college,” said Dean Adams. “I think it is extremely important that all young men realize that in today’s, without broader education past high school, that their choices for a successful future are limited.

For more information about NHC’s the C.I.R.C.L.E. student leadership mentoring program, call Professor Mark at 281.618.7149 or Dean Adams at 281.618.5449.

North Harris College is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive., one-half mile south of FM 1960 East, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads. Registration for summer and fall 2007 is now in progress. For more information about the college, call 281.618.5400 or visit: northharris.lonestar.edu .

NHMCCD, among the five largest and fastest growing community colleges in Texas, comprise, Cy-Fair College, Kingwood College, Montgomery College, North Harris College, Tomball College, six satellite centers, and The University Center.



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