College hopes to save AAMI

By Timothy Bold
The Scene staff

St. Louis Community College may have to find alternative funding for the African American Male Initiative if the U.S. Department of Education doesn’t extend its grant.

AAMI sponsors workshops, seminars, orientations, tutoring, mentoring and academic monitoring programs for about 120 students at Forest Park.

“It helped me get my grades up and stay in school,” said general transfer student DeAndre Prince, 22, who has been involved with the program for about two years. “It helped keep my head on straight and become a better person.”

STLCC started the program in 2009 on the Forest Park and Florissant Valley campuses to help black males succeed in college.

Officials saw a need because of declining enrollments, high drop-out rates and low grade-point averages.

The U.S. Department of Education granted $1.8 million for staff and activities over six years. But that money is about to run out.

The college has applied for another federal grant, according to Franklyn Taylor, Forest Park’s vice president of student affairs. A decision is expected in October.

“We’re asking for an extension for one more year,” Taylor said. “If it doesn’t happen, we’re going to find alternative ways to continue the program through Campus Life and Student Affairs.”

AAMI is one of the best-known programs on the Forest Park campus. Many students and staff can’t imagine being without it.

AAMI Director Keith Ware, who oversees activities on both campuses, notes that it not only helps students with homework but also with time management, preparation for placement tests and overall life skills.

“My experience as a community college student has been uplifted by the support of my mentor, George Robnett,” said Harlan McCarthy, 22, a mass communications major who has been involved with the program for more than a year.

Earlier this summer, AAMI held a leadership summit at Forest Park for youths ages 13-18 from the surrounding community. It included free transportation, meals and backpacks with school supplies.

The youths were divided into groups, each representing an African kingdom. They learned about diversity, culture, money management, team building and even basic survival skills in the college atmosphere.

“You can’t want your kids to be greater than yourself if you’re not the example,” said Student Resource Specialist Antonia Parker, who helped organize the summit.

All students, not just black males, are eligible to get involved in AAMI if they are taking classes at Forest Park or Florissant Valley and maintaining a 2.0 grade-point average. For more information, call the office at 314-951-9858 or visit (click on “Student Resources” and then “African American Male Initiative).