More than 400 young men in grades 9-11 from local urban high schools gathered in the Montclair State University Conference Center on March 21 for the third annual Boys to Men Conference, an empowerment and educational event that focuses on promoting healthy relationships, financial literacy, mentor-ship, manhood, effective leadership and the importance of attending college.
Featuring a keynote address and panel, a Step exhibition, open mic and workshops on college expectations, the admissions process, goal setting, career exploration and maximizing financial aid awards, the daylong conference was organized by Montclair State’s Educational Opportunity Fund Program (EOF), together with several campus partners.
The schools that participated in the program were Paterson Eastside (Culinary Arts, Government and Public Administration, Information Technology), Essex County Newark Tech, Hoboken Charter, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X Shabazz, Newark Collegiate Academy, People’s Prep Charter and Rutgers-Newark Upward Bound.
"Nationwide, young men of color in institutions of higher education have been declining and it's alarming,” said Daniel Jean, executive director of the Educational Opportunity Fund Program and Academic Development at Montclair State and organizer of the event. “Programs such as this conference tailored especially for urban teens have never been more critically needed.”
Gemar Mills ’05, Montclair State alumnus and principal of Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark was the keynote speaker. Widely credited with saving the troubled school from being closed, Mills has garnered accolades from the Newark Public Schools District and the media for turning the school’s fortunes around and setting it on a new, successful course.
Mills spoke about his upbringing in the projects in Paterson and encouraged the students not to be defined by their circumstances, but to take control and set their sights on the possibilities a college education can open up for them.
As successful college graduates or current students themselves, the members of the Professional Swagger Panel embodied these possibilities for the young men. In addition to Mills, panelists included Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley; Sergeant Carlos Ortiz, of the Montclair State University Police Department; and Federal Agent Bernard Mensah, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; as well as successful business owners and University student leaders. The panelists shared their stories and experiences and answered questions from the audience.
In addition to EOF, the conference was sponsored by the Center for Academic Development and Assessment; Residential Education and Services; the School of Business; the Office of the Provost; the President’s Commission on Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity; Enrollment Management and Student Academic Services; the Center for Student Involvement; Commuter Student Programs and Services; Alumni Relations; and Undergraduate Admissions.
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