Fraternity helps at-risk Hillsborough students get on track
TAMPA Raymond Price knows how important it is to plan for your future. The Blake High School senior learned that through his affiliation with Men of Tomorrow, a program of the Gamma Zeta Lambda chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Its purpose is to motivate at-risk middle and high school males of all ethnic backgrounds to seek higher education and prepare themselves for college. Through a series of workshops on goal setting, developing good study habits and test-taking skills, members of the African American fraternity — all college graduates and leaders within the community — provide resources meant to help teens map out their own rewarding careers.“You can never be too prepared to be successful,” said Price, who admitted that before he started the program he wasn’t particularly interested in school, much less in doing what it takes toward building a secure and gratifying future. “I was a B and C student and now I’m an A and B student,” he said, also noting that he’s been able to better his score on the American College Testing exam from an initial 17 to 23. Price has been accepted at Florida A&M University, where he plans to major in marine engineering. He’s also received a couple of scholarships and said others are pending. “My mom is a single parent so this really helps her,” he said. He’s also significantly improved his grade point average Community donors provide funding for materials needed by fraternity volunteers who host Saturday-morning workshops including how to prepare the pre-college ACT and Scholastic Aptitude Test. Among them is the University Area Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit agency that recently contributed $1,000 toward the effort. “We’ve been providing Men of Tomorrow with meeting space and support for years,” UACDC executive director and CEO Dan Jurman said in a statement. “This year we wanted to focus additional resources specifically on helping these exemplary young men with their efforts to get accepted to the colleges and universities of their choice.” In addition to the inhouse workshops at the Alpha Phi Alpha chapter’s headquarters in Tampa the teens have the opportunity to visit various colleges and universities up and down the East Coast, and even took a field trip to Washington, D.C. That was an “ah-ha” experience for group member William Fleming, who returned home from his visit to the national’s capital with an enlightened perspective about his future. Following graduation at Tampa Bay Tech, he hopes to enlist for five years in the Marines, followed by the Reserves. He’d then like to return to Washington and enroll in either George Washington University or Howard University to study cultural diversity. But that’s not to say he joined the program jumping for joy. It took plenty of coaxing to convince William the Men of Tomorrow program could help put him on the right career track. The TBT senior came to the school as a freshman from a school in Macon, Ga., where he said he was ranked fourth in his eighth-grade class. At the time he was dealing with some personal trauma, including the death of his father, who was killed at the hands of William’s brother. When he started at TBT he was had a 3.9 grade point average, but before long he found his grades slipping to the point where he was even failing his math class. “I’d left my childhood friends behind and I had no close friends at my new school,” Fleming said. “I was going through a lot of depression and I felt like I was failing the whole world.” During his sophomore year at TBT, a guidance counselor sensed a problem when he spotted the boy walking down the hallway one day. He called Fleming into his office and introduced him to Phillip Paul, Men of Tomorrow’s director of education, who happened to be there for a meeting. When initially told about the program, the troubled teen resisted signing up because of the “early” Saturday morning workshops. But at Paul’s persuasion he finally gave in. ”This program has really helped me out,” Fleming said. “It has also given me a sense of bonding with my brothers.”
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at JoyceCMcKenzie@gmail.com.