M.E.N. increases retention rates for men of color

Erica Carter

The Male Empowerment Network is a student organization that strives to increase leadership opportunities amongst men of color.

“I came to my first M.E.N. session and these upperclassmen believed in me,” Lopes said.

I was surrounded by people who thought I could be an educated black man. It’s not like that where I’m from.”

Dwayne Lopes, freshman communications studies major, credits the success of his first semester at Kent State to M.E.N.

Lopes is from Columbus, Ohio. His mother and father never thought he would graduate high school or even go to college and he spent most of his life hanging out on the streets all day. Lopes knew it was important to find the support he never received at home at Kent.

“Growing up, I was always told I ain’t gonna be nothing, then I come here and Travie, Pedro and and (all of them)… telling me to hit them up, and they doing big things out here. I can be like them, I can be successful,” Lopes said.

The Male Empowerment Network (M.E.N.) serves as a support system for men of color in areas of leadership, professionalism and academia. The leaders involved with M.E.N have helped keep students in school by being a true aide to those who need it most.

“A big part of coming Kent and working here (the Student Multicultural Center) was being able to work with men of color and this job specifically outlined just that,” said Michael Daniels, program coordinator for the Student Multicultural Center and M.E.N. advisor.

When Daniels got to Kent, he realized the organization had a lot of great history, but it was not where it needed to be to reach the masses of all men of color on campus. Daniels made it his mission to connect with the student leaders on campus. It led him to Emonte Wimbush.

Wimbush is a senior fashion merchandising major. Wimbush has held various leadership positions across campus making him a key part in Daniels mission to get M.E.N. where it needed to be.

“I shared my vision with him and he didn’t really see the potential that I saw in him when it came to uplifting men of color,” Daniels said.

Wimbush said the rocky start of M.E.N. made him hesitant to assist Daniels in his mission to bring the network where it needed to be.

“I’m just like, ‘I don’t know you, you don’t me, so us working together ain’t gonna work out,’” Wimbush said.

After taking the time out to get to know Daniels, Wimbush saw that they shared the same vision and together they worked on bringing M.E.N. to where it needed to be.

“I started introducing him to people I knew would be great for the board, who shared our vision,” Wimbush said. “The best part about it was there was no foundation, no structure for us to follow. So whatever we did to make this work, it was gonna be successful.”

Senior aircraft control major, Felix Reynoso, said he would be nowhere without the help of Daniels.

“I owe everything to M.E.N. and Mike,” Reynoso said.

Reynoso has been on the executive board for M.E.N. as the networking coordinator for the past two years. He says being apart of the brotherhood helped with his identity.

“I just learned so much from Mike and just being apart of this organization. I learned about my own self identity and who I am. Being apart of this brotherhood and sharing those stories is what M.E.N. is all about. I don’t know where I would be without them,” Reynoso said.

Reynoso isn’t the only one who was struggling before M.E.N. Wimbush even contemplated transfering before getting involved with the organization.

“Home. I would be home if I didn’t have M.E.N.,” Wimbush said. “I found my place my freshman year but I didn’t truly find my place until I met Mike and I joined M.E.N., and took over this organization and develop and use my voice, and now I help others use their voice.”

Wimbush is proud of his time served as president and even prouder of the current president, junior marketing major Donovan Vaughn.

“You know you’re doing something right when the board of trustees is asking you about funding so you can help with retention rates among males on campus,” Wimbush said.

Even with the success of M.E.N, Daniels still sees there’s more work to be done.

“As a man of color myself, people are looking to me as an example,” Daniels said. “I place more pressure on myself for that reason versus how many are a member of M.E.N.”

At this institution, there are over a thousand men of color. Daniels said his mind will always be on the ones who aren’t attending a M.E.N session.

“You know our attendance is going up, everybody celebrating,” Daniels said. “We got 80, 90, 100 dudes coming in, but I can’t hang my hat on top of that. I’m always thinking about the men who don’t show up? How do we reach them.”

With the organization growing everyday Reynoso said men are utilizing the resources they have more.

“Come talk to us, we want to know what’s going on, what you need, so we can tell Mike and get things going.” Reynoso said. ”We are here for all men of color to succeed, someone who identifies as a male — it doesn’t matter —  just come let us help you.”

Erica Carter is the Diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected].