New on-campus group aids men struggling with mental, physical health

Freshman construction management major Jason Booker and freshman digital media production major Peter Lindo concentrate as they do their planks Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, an activity part of the Big Brotha’s Program.

Tierra Thomas

A set of burpees and some pushups, along with sitting twists and planks. A three-minute break, and then repeat.

“Last circuit,” junior exercise science major Caleb Broadous calls out to the group of men beside him, all sweating, tired and out of breath. But they still get into position, ready to finish what they started.

Big Brotha’s Program, a new student organization on campus, gives male students struggling with their mental, physical and emotional health an outlet to better themselves.

“I want this organization to be an outlet for men who maybe have not experienced or don’t necessarily want to join a Greek organization,” said Carl “CJ” Owensby, a freshman political science major and the founder of the program.

Big Brotha’s Program recently started this semester after Owensby and a friend won a pitch competition for LaunchNET in Spring 2017. Owensby won $400 to jumpstart his student organization, and so far, there are 14 mentors and 15 mentees.

“This organization is not just geared to bigger men,” he said. “It’s geared toward men, period. And it’s to help them with physical health, mental health and academics.”

Owensby said he wants the program to succeed in helping men battle with mental health, which he feels isn’t talked about much in the black community.

“College can be really stressful, and a lot of people like to hold that in,” he said. “Mental health is something that is overlooked so that’s something I’d really like to hit on.“

Juanantonio Nieves, a sophomore criminology and justice studies major, oversees all other mentors in the program. After learning a lot from his mentors his freshman year in the Kupita Transiciones program, he wanted to become a mentor for other people. 

“I want my mentees to be impacted by myself, as well, the same way I was impacted by my mentor,” Nieves said.

The Big Brotha’s Program offers support for those who want to gain confidence while also trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Broadous, the health coordinator for the program, puts together exercise routines and implements them with the mentors and mentees.  

“I’m making sure that I’m not pushing them to where they can’t do it, but I’m pushing them to be able to push past their limits,” Broadous said. 

Broadous said he wants the mentees to have the mindset where they want to get their body right, but won’t judge them if that’s something they’re not interested in.

“It doesn’t matter either way because in the end I still see them as my brothers, and I’m still going to help them in any way that I can,” he said.  

For Owensby, it’s the little things that matter when it comes to getting the program to succeed.

“The real purpose of this is to focus on the small things that can make a big, greater impact on us as men,” he said.

Tierra Thomas is the African-American student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected].