Howard Community College hired Steven Freeman Jr. last fall as a retention specialist, and he soon garnered a reputation as someone students — particularly black men — could rely on for counsel, support and encouragement, whether with academic problems or personal concerns.
Now Freeman has become a key component in the college's efforts to eliminate the achievement gap among black males. While the school had closed the gap about 15 years ago, it now finds it must address the matter again with a growing influx of older students and those who enroll at the last minute.
HCC has launched a support program called Howard PRIDE that began with a Black Male College Summit in April. The program has 40 students, but HCC officials say it should soon double in size. The program offers advisers and peer mentors.
Cindy Peterka, vice president of student services, said that while the components have not been finalized, the program will be designed to ensure that students maintain good academic standing (a minimum 2.0 grade-point average), that they complete a developmental math requirement and that the school increases its transfer and graduation rates among black males. The program will also help students develop skills such as public speaking and interviewing for a job.