Sam Houston Elite program awarded grant to support minority freshman, sophomore males
Program receives $40,000 grant to expand, support minority males
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 01:08
A program that focuses on supporting minority males at Sam Houston State University recently received a $40,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to help expand and implement a new sophomore program for its members.
Bernice Strauss, Ph.D., who oversees Sam Houston Elite, is looking to make the program a self-perpetuating program this year by adding new alumni committees that would help support freshman members, build relationships with the university community, alumni, and the Huntsville community.
This year, Elite has 64 incoming freshmen minority men along with about 40 returning members, compared to last year’s 37 members, according to Strauss.
With the funding, the new sophomore program plans to include weekly meeting for members for social support, a grassroots series for members and five alumni committees for mentoring, tutoring, community service, public relations and alumni relations.
“Every student in this program is a link in a chain,” Strauss said. “Because of the work these men have done, they are opening doors and provide more opportunities for future members.”
Founded in 2010 by Kandi Harris of the Student Advising and Mentoring Center, Sam Houston Elite was designed to support and the academic achievement for incoming minority male students at SHSU. It is headed by an advisory board made up of representatives from different departments across the university.
As part of the program, incoming first-time freshmen who achieve a GPA of 2.5 with 12 hours in the fall receive free books for the spring semester. Students who achieve a 3.0 in the spring receive an iPad. Along with the alumni program, Strauss hopes to use the new funding to reward alumni members for their achievements beyond their freshman year.
In addition to meeting academic standards of the program, members of Elite participate in heavy study skills, networking opportunities as well as community service projects and grassroots series throughout the academic year.
“It’s a different culture in college and a lot of these men don’t know what to expect” said Bernice Strauss, Ph.D., who now oversees the program. “The Elite program is part of the acculturation process to help them understand the rules and skills of higher education.”
According to a report released to THECB by Dr. Strauss, who conducts research on the effectiveness of the program, participants in the Elite program attempted and completed a higher average of hours than other first-time male freshmen and another matched control group.
Additionally, the average GPA for African American Elite members was a 2.62 compared to a 2.3 by other first-time freshmen. The average GPA for Hispanic members of Elite was a 3.05, compared to a 2.42 by other first-time male freshmen.
For incoming members, the Elite program offers a unique opportunity for minorities in higher education that is not common.
“I was really interested to join the program because it was specifically for minorities,” Ivy Harris, freshman nursing major, said. “It gives us a special opportunity to students who normally don’t get this type of attention.”
For others, it was the community aspect of the program that drew them in.
“It’s a real blessing to have help here,” Victor Guzman, freshman criminal justice major, said. “It’s like a second family. College isn’t cheap anymore and just to have this kind of program here to have that support.”
For Strauss, Sam Houston Elite presents a meaningful opportunity for the minority men to take advantage of important resources in higher education.
“One out of four men of color graduate college,” Strauss said. “They’re already defying the odds by being here; we’re just here to support them.”