A second chance.
That’s what Leroy Brown, a Black Studies major, found in one Community College of Philadelphia program as a young Black male.
Leroy is expected to complete his degree program in fall 2021 and largely credits this accomplishment to the Center for Male Engagement (CME), a program that he calls “a mecca for young Black men, navigating life and higher education.”
Leroy started at the College in fall 2019 as a transfer from a 4-year college. He was certain that attending a community college would be a walk in the park.
“I came in with an ‘I can do it myself’ mentality,” Leroy said as he talked about his choice to transfer. “But it hit me like a ton of bricks when I failed my first semester.”
Leroy completed his first semester with a 1.8 GPA, which landed him on academic probation. Feeling defeated and hopeless, support coach Patrick Robinson introduced Leroy to CME, which he decided to join that summer. As the new semester approached, and an entire summer of building relationships with staff had passed, Leroy realized the CME support coaches never gave up on him. They were consistent in connecting with him, encouraging and reinforcing that he could do better and making sure he wouldn’t quit. The constant support throughout the next semester helped Leroy finish with a 3.8 GPA.
“I love everything about this program; they have done so much for me,” Leroy said. “CME kept me on a narrow path to getting my associate degree. It was the discipline factor to block the distractions.”
The CME program, geared towards African-American males, helps students adapt to the college environment by providing support to help lessen the barriers to academic success. Support coaches work to enhance students’ skill sets and encourage them to take advantage of the College's many academic and social opportunities, cultivating a sense of belonging at the College and beyond.
The program, brothers and “Boss Man,” as Leroy affectionately called his respective peers and Derrick Perkins, project director, represented role models that helped Leroy ground himself and gave him a space to be an authentic Black man in the pursuit of higher education. CME offered a nurturing environment created by men who mirrored and reflected those they served. They offered mental health stability for Leroy when he felt overwhelmed and the proper guidance to find a positive outlet.
“CME grounded me and supported me. I was on a downward spiral and the brothers from CME helped me through so many tough times,” Leroy said. “Boss Man, Derrick, put me in so many positions to lead, speak to others…even putting me on the spot at times, so that I could better myself. I am forever grateful for him.”
Leroy serves as a CME peer support coach, providing other males in the program the same self-assuring supports, assistance and valuable resources and knowledge that were passed onto him.
“I understand the phrase, ‘Iron sharpens iron,’ because in order for me to be better I had to surround myself with better people,” Leroy said. “They’ve always held me accountable, but also taught me patience, love and how to grow through the process.”
Leroy is forever grateful for the relationships, lessons taught and experiences he’s encountered through CME, even noting his desire to one day re-create that nurturing environment for other young Black men like himself.