Much is said about the disparity of black males in areas of education. However, not much is done.
As founder and executive director of Minority Males for Higher Education, Edmund Lewis, Jr. works to bridge the gap between talk and action.
In 2010, the U.S. Census estimated the black male population to be 16,759; of that number, 6.3 percent were enrolled in school, as a college undergraduate or graduate. Fifty-three percent had graduated high school, but were not enrolled in school.
“These young men have an opportunity to either decide on going to community college, find a job, or stay in the hood and do nothing,” Lewis says.
Since 2008, his non-profit has provided young men with resources and opportunities for academic success, through mentoring, tutoring, teaching of life skills and professional development.
A firm believer in the first impression, Lewis, 26, even helps participants look the part of a young professional—providing haircuts, suits and neckties. Based in Farmington Hills, the program is available in Detroit-area schools.
Originally from North Carolina, Lewis has seen the cost of wasted potential first hand.
“Most of my best friends, who were great athletes, who were smart students, didn’t make it out the hood,” he says. “They didn’t have an opportunity to succeed because they let peer influence change their lives and they made a wrong decision.”
Lewis himself didn’t plan on attending college after high school, but now holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan. It’s the lack of exposure of higher education that holds back many African American males, he says.
“In other cultures, the discussion isn’t ‘if’ you’re going to college,” he says. “It’s ‘where’ you’re going to college.”
Lewis encourages the same mentality in his students. He doesn’t accept “‘No, it’s not for me’ as an alternative to answer the question,” he says.
Participants of the program have gone on to attend Morehouse College, Oakland University and Michigan State University.
“I tell these young men, ‘This happened to me,’” he says. “’If I can go to college, you can do it, and what can I do to help you?’”