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Mentoring program aims to support young men of color


Alvaro Peters '14 (Photo by Matt Milless)
Alvaro Peters '14 (Photo by Matt Milless)

When Alvaro Peters '14 arrived at Union, the first generation college student from Malden, Mass. could have used a mentor to help navigate the challenges he faced.

"I really didn't know what to expect," said Peters, a double major in History and Africana Studies.

Whether it was dealing with issues involving academics, social life or how to get involved in the community, Peters felt something was missing. So last spring, he and his Alpha Phi Alpha brothers – Joseph Mason '13 and De'Sean Suarez '14 – revived Phenomenal Males, a group that was launched by the fraternity in the early 1990s but had been dormant in recent years.

Acting as role models and mentors, members strive to challenge young men to live responsible lives, develop their talents, get involved in the community and build their self-esteem. Aimed primarily at males of color from multicultural backgrounds, the group has grown to 11 members this term. Meeting weekly, the group hopes to "raise the standard of scholarship and manhood and to reassess the term 'success'", said Jason Benitez, director of Multicultural Affairs and the group's unofficial advisor.

Members also connect regularly with students at nearby Schenectady High, offering tips on preparing for college and how to present themselves in a positive manner.

Peters is pleased with the early results of the group's efforts.

"We hear from students all the time," said Peters, whose email signature includes a quote from Frederick Douglas, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

"They text or email to discuss their grades, or to say, 'I didn't do so well. I could use some help with a quiz.' Someone might also have a question about a relationship. That's the beauty of it; we are there for everything."

The group is pushing to get officially recognized by Student Forum. In the meantime, it hopes to raise its profile with an event on Feb. 28 at 5:30 p.m. in Old Chapel: Suited for Success.

Attendees will get tips on business etiquette, dress and success from a panel featuring Benitez; Bob Soules, director of the Becker Career Center; Matt Malatesta ’91, vice president for Admissions, Financial Aid and Enrollment; Sunni Solomon, director of Greek Affairs; Hans-Friedrich Mueller, the William D. Williams Professor and Chair of Classics; Eric Noll, director of Human Resources; and George Timmons, associate provost, Center for Online Education, Learning and Academic Services at Excelsior College.

Those who attend will receive a free tie, courtesy of a campus collection by Phenomenal Males.

For more information on the event or to learn how to join the group, contact Peters at petersa2@garnet.union.edu.