The Educated Mentor: Issue 1, Volume 2 (Fall 2020)

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FALL 2020



CREATING A LASTING LEGACY Message from the Co-Founders | p. 4




OPERATION G.R.A.D, INCORPORATED Moving Beyond Initiatives Operation G.R.A.D, Incorporated is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization whose purpose is to help collegiate African-American males graduate with a college degree. With mentoring as the foundational approach, we challenge and support students as they achieve goals initially set.


Guided by the core values of commitment, community, education, diversity, and integrity , Operation G.R.A.D is dedicated to providing a holistic student-centered experience that prepares students for opportunities during and post college. For questions, or to learn more about our organization, please contact us at




"This pandemic experience is a massive experiment in collective vulnerability. We can be our worst selves when we're afraid, or our very best and bravest selves . . . Let's choose awkward, brave, and kind." - BrenĂŠ Brown

Creating a Lasting Legacy


Welcome to Quarter 2! How are you? I know you may be wondering why we are asking how you are doing. If we even care. The answer is YES! We absolutely care about your well-being and mental state. COVID-19 continues to impact people physically and financially, but let's not forget, mentally and emotionally. As servants in communities across the states and Black men's lives, we CARE, and you MATTER! In the previous publication and as co-founders of the organization, we are grateful for your continued support as we continue to grow. The past three months have been very eventful and rewarding as we continue to make groundbreaking achievements. The uncertainty of COVID-19 (among other things) has not deterred us from success. If anything, it has served as a catalyst. Our vision, coupled with our firm and dedicated team members, proves we are capable and committed to helping Black men complete a college degree. As we enter the second quarter of our first year, we are excited to engage in new opportunities. First, we are wrapping up our new marketing materials to promote Operation G.R.A.D to potential investors and university partners. Additionally, we are planning various events to remain engaged with all our supporters. We are excited about what's to come. As we close, we want to bring attention to the opening quote. BrenĂŠ Brown put forth the challenge to be "awkward, brave, and kind." As new co-founders of a startup organization, we were forced to operate in awkwardness, be brave while innovating in the unknown, and leaning into kindness for ourselves and others around us. As a result, bravery and kindness ignited the need for innovation for this issue. In this edition of 'The Educated Mentor', we are honored to introduce and share a new segment entitled, 'Amplified', designed to uplift and highlight the collegiate Black male voices around topics that affect them most. We are nothing without them, and you! Thank you for your unwavering support for Operation G.R.A.D, Inc. as we are "Creating A Lasting Legacy". In Mentorship,

Dr. Darryl Hylton, Jr. Jamie L. Enge

Dr. Darryl Hylton, Jr. & Jamie L. Enge Co-Founders

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VOLUME 1, ISSUE 2 CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Dr. Darryl Hylton, Jr. CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Jamie L. Enge JOURNAL EDITOR Dr. Darryl Hylton, Jr. CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Dr. C.L. Coleman Jesulayomi Dawodu Robert Dudley Jamie L. Enge Michael Ferron Dr. T.M. Graham J'Ron Harry Jermekkio Holliway Dr. Darryl Hylton, Jr. Amir Lawrence Armando Martinez Jameco McKenzie Kavon Parker Maleik Watkins Rashaan Young The Educated Mentor is the official publication of Operation G.R.A.D, Incorporated published four times a year. For any questions or feedback regarding the publication, please contact us at Front Cover: "Educated Black Man" Photographer: @chelseasmilephotography Back Cover: "College Bound" Photographer: @chelseasmilephotography Stay connected with us: 'Like' us on Facebook: Follow us on Instagram: @Operationg.r.a.dinc

Follow us on LinkedIn:








volume 1, issue 2

featured articles

28 32 36

Six Strategies for Successful Sophomores The Pandemic: An Even More Different World 10 Things Mentors Can Do to Support Black Students Mental Health & Wellness Through Virtual or Socially Distant Environments




06 National News

18 The Mentor Spotlight

Get the latest information from the National Office

10 Amplified Students share why their Black Lives Matter

Recognizing Trailblazer, Roderick Heath

24 Dear Brother, Receive a Word of Wisdom from Michael Ferron

40 Philanthropy At-A-Glance An overview of our philanthropy from Quarter 1

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The Educated Mentor


National News Co-Founders Receive 'Top 100 Visionaries' Award In August 2020, Co-Founders Enge and Hylton were nominated to receive the Top 100 Visionaries in Education award for the 2020 Global Forum for Education and Learning (GFEL) conference for their innovative approach to changing the field of education through their commitment to seeing African-American males persist and graduate with a college degree. As of September 2020, both Enge and Hylton's nominations were accepted and they will be recognized among the top innovative visionary leaders across the globe. The three-day conference is scheduled for mid-April 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Shop with us on Amazon Smile Operation G.R.A.D is registered with Amazon Smile. Now, anyone who shops through Amazon can support Operation G.R.A.D. How? Well, for each eligible purchase made by supporters, Amazon donates 0.5% back to the organization. Simply follow these 3 easy steps to get started: 1. Sign into your Amazon account via 2. Select Operation G.R.A.D, Inc. NFP as your charity 3. Shop 'til you drop! For more information, visit

06 The Educated Mentor

Zachary Price joins the Operation G.R.A.D Team We are excited to announce that NC A&T State University and Indiana University alumnus, Zachary J. Price, will be joining the Operation G.R.A.D team to provide strategic insights on fundraising, relationship building, and financial guidance for our organization. Zachary currently serves as a Development Officer for the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College and comes to us with over half-decade of experience in higher education administration, student affairs, and fundraising. His addition will play a huge role in the success of our next fundraising efforts and charting the way for Operation G.R.A.D’s financial stability. Welcome, Zachary and AGGIE PRIDE!

Corporate Partnerships #Don'tRushChallenge: Effectively Using Your Platform to Create a Lasting Legacy On September 12, 2020, Dr. Darryl Hylton co-facilitated a presentation with a colleague and friend, Ms. Jadia Artis, for the inaugural [virtual] Student Leadership Institute hosted by Tennessee State University, powered by HopIn. Their presentation focused on how student leaders (specifically SGA and Royal Court members) can effectively plan to maximize their leadership position(s) throughout the year ultimately developing a lasting legacy on their campus. Additionally, the co-facilitators shared tips on how they still use their platform and the skills learned from their leadership positions post-graduation in their career journeys.

Be Well: A Wellness Check-Up for Our Black Boys On November 7, 2020, Co-Founder Jamie Enge will be presenting at the 2020 'Manhood 101' mentoring sessions. This annual conference, sponsored by Hope For A Better Tomorrow (and other community organizations), is designed to introduce young men to outstanding male role models. Jamie will be facilitating a session focused on the importance of Black men taking care of their mental health and wellness.

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Does your passion intersect with the vision of Operation G.R.A.D? Are you looking for a way for your company to support our organization? Are you ready to make a charitable donation? If so, consider becoming a corporate sponsor. With our various sponsorship levels, there are multiple opportunities and ways for your company to support Operation G.R.A.D in the achievement of its goals. Ultimately, as a corporate sponsor, your gift helps continue and sustain the mission of the organization. To begin your journey in becoming a corporate sponsor, visit or website

#FBF: Facebook Birthday Fundraisers Do you have a birthday coming up? Of course you do! And this year we want to be a part of your special day. Operation G.R.A.D is now listed with the major non-profit organizations/charities eligible to receive funds through Facebook Fundraisers. So when your next birthday comes around the corner, consider creating a birthday fundraiser to support Operation G.R.A.D. You can search for us by name or Tax ID: 84-4956308. For more information visit

Collaborate with Us!

Are you looking for opportunities to publish? For our upcoming quarterly journals, we are seeking individuals interested in sharing their knowledge, expertise, and experience with the Operation G.R.A.D community. For more information please contact us at The Educated Mentor



g n i t a r leb






Our mission is to increase the persistence and graduation rates of collegiate African American males. The current labor market’s emphasis on a college education means that males and potentially lower class and racial minority males, especially, will find themselves at a more significant disadvantage in the employment market unless the rates of college participation and degree achievement increase. Because of this, the need for Operation G.R.A.D, Inc was born. With the mission and vision in mind, we are continuously leading in a time of unprecedented challenge yet opportunity. Amid the global pandemic (Coronavirus) and racial reckoning our nation is experiencing, Operation G.R.A.D used this opportunity to execute three critical strategies; (1) released our first official publication, (2) implemented one of our fundraising campaigns, and (3) conducted a listening tour. The Educated Mentor On July 1st, 2020, we released our first publication to the world. It was and still is a huge accomplishment with more greatness to come. We had over 5,000 people interact (read and/or downloaded) with the publication along with tons of feedback, reviews, and professional connections. Fundraising Campaigns Without fundraising, an organization wouldn’t be able to stay up and running, further their cause(s), or help those that they serve. On July 17th, we launched our first fundraising campaign, entitled, $5 x 5 Friday

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challenge. With this challenge, individuals donated five dollars to one of our donation platforms (Zelle Pay or Cash App), nominated five people, and lastly, shared our donation post on their social media platforms. Listenting Tours You may be saying to yourself, "What is a listening tour?" A listening tour is a series of conversations to gather information, experience, and learnings from colleagues, mentors, and/or peers in the same (or similar) industry. It is a valuable tool for any leader, and by doing so, we were able to capture ideas that will move our work forward. Two influential individuals we connected with, unintentionally introduced us to the world of nonprofit, cofounders of PeerForward; Derek Canty and JB Schramm. From both conversations, two critical pieces of feedback came out:


One, be comfortable with learning and adapting. Ideas are just that, ideas, so take time to take a step back regularly. Just because everything is working out doesn’t mean holding space for evaluation shouldn’t occur. Take time to ask yourself what’s is/ is not working and if you are meeting your organization’s goals and upholding your mission? Are your donors happy and excited about your organization?


Two, be intentional cultivating relationships. Building genuine relationships extends beyond a dollar amount. Establishing connections with influential people can result in valuable allies, unbiased feedback, and lasting partnerships. The Educated Mentor


Amplified "Can You Hear Me Now?!"

By: Dr. Darryl Hylton

Our #BlackLivesMatter! Amplified is the newest segment in our publication dedicated to highlighting and uplifting the students' voices. With each quarter focusing on different culturally relevant topics, this platform is designed to provide a space for students to be authentic and transparent about things that affect them most. As we've seen, 2020 has been filled with many chaotic moments that will forever change the way we view and navigate the world in which we live. These moments have evoked a spectrum of emotions ranging from fear and hate to love and empowerment. More specifically, it has uncovered many of the underlying systemic issues directly impacting Black males. As such, many advocates have engaged in social justice rallies sparking necessary conversations across the nation (and world). While some progress has been made, unfortunately, there is still a long road ahead. To keep us grounded in the important work that remains, these gentlemen remind us why their #BlackLivesMatter.

J'Ron Harry

Classification: Junior Major: Biology, Norfolk State University Hometown: Smithfield, VA "My black life matters because just like everybody else I have a heart and I should be treated equally like any other person. When I was younger, I was able to hangout with my friends and go places without worrying if I’m going to make it back home. But the world we live in now, that is not the case. Everybody does not get treated the same way and the difference in treatment is based the color of a person’s skin. Although I’m a Black male (and it comes with many challenges and hardships), I’m still proud to be who I am and who I was born to be. I’m praying that the world will open their eyes and see the same thing that me and my other fellow Black men see. My life matters because I have special hidden talents and my talents can change the world."

Kavon Parker

Classification: Junior Major: Psychology, Fisk University Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland "In this world, I see myself as a provider, protector, and powerful king. I am unique; the way I write, talk, and carry myself cannot be duplicated. My life matters because I am a brother, son, and future FBI specialist. As a college student at Fisk University, a Historically Black College & University, I am a Black athlete who upholds the attributes of a scholar. Like many who came before me, I walk on a campus where Diane Nash, John Lewis, and W.E.B Du Bois blazed the trail so I may make a mark on this world. I’m a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., a brotherhood built upon achievement. These factors help reinforce the importance of my lineage. Society wants me to aim at my people, but my strength defines success as the real target. However, the chains that society has forced upon me does not represent who I am nor determine how far I go."


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The Educated Mentor

Amir Lawrence

Classification: Junior Major: Cyber Security with a minor in Psychology, NC State University Hometown: New Bern, North Carolina "My Black life matters because I am constantly being reminded that such a statement is not common sense. It is met with constant debates and accusations of “reverse racism”. In a world plagued in darkness, I want my life to be a piece of the cure. All my life I have been patronized and gas-lit to think that my life already does matter. That is simply not the case. The teacher who told me I was going to drop out in high school did not think my life mattered. The cop who harassed me in front of my friends did not think my life mattered. The institution that heard my cries and then replied with ignorant rhetoric did not think my life mattered. So here I stand; hurt, betrayed, and enraged. I am tired of explaining and bargaining for equality and recognition. It is not my place to explain to America why my life matters. It is my place to shine and grow till I resemble a lighthouse. A beacon in the dark that does nothing but constantly reinforce the fact that My Black Life Matters."

Rashaan Young

Classification: Senior Major: Hospitality Management, Western Illinois University Hometown: Chicago, Illinois "Growing up not only a Black gay man in Chicago but living in a world that's against us was very terrifying. I grew up with a father who was in and out of jail, which caused me to grow up in a single mother household who worked countless hours to make ends meet. I was bullied throughout my childhood due to my sexuality. For a very long time, I struggled with finding my selfworth. I had to navigate through depression, loneliness and built up anger while still keeping a smile. It wasn't until I got into high school when I actually found myself. I discovered my Black life matters more than words could ever describe. My Black life matters because it is courageous, powerful, and authentic. Throughout all the obstacles I faced in life, I never gave up, and I'm walking testament that Black Lives Matter. Always remember, never give up and know your worth. Why? Because you will forever MATTER!"

Jermekkio Holliway

Classification: Senior Major: Social Work, Southern University and A&M College Hometown: Washington, DC "My Black life matters because I am a young Black man that grew up in a neighborhood where many people preyed on my siblings and I to be a stereotypical family that wasn’t going to make it out the hood. Yet, despite the obstacles that trampled us in society’s norms, we managed to be one of the most successful families on that street; success measured in endurance.


My Black life deserves to reap the benefits of everything my family went through and reparations for systemic racism. As an artist, my art is very sacred to the healing of the mental process of African Americans connecting many different forms of art to symbolize different types of therapy needed to keep going in the cruel world. As an aspiring social worker, I will put my clients first and always stand up for justice in times of strife. My black life matters because it helps other black lives." Fall 2020 Edition

The Educated Mentor

Maleik Watkins

Classification: Junior Major: Political Science, Norfolk State University Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia "Even with odds stacked against me, I continue to prevail. Throughout childhood there were moments when I would question why I had the life I did. Growing up in a fatherless household, my mom took on the responsibility of raising three boys. As the youngest in the family, I took on a lot of responsibility at an early age. Around the beginning of high school, I started to understand the barriers placed in front of me. As a young black man with no father-figure, I had to learn a lot of stuff on my own. I did not want to be another stereotype and did everything in my power not to be. I’m proud to say that I will be graduating from Norfolk State debt-free, member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., served in numerous leadership positions both on and off campus, and more. My Black life matters because I refuse to succumb to adversity and disrupt my path to success. My Black life matters because my ancestors made sacrifices to be presented the same opportunities as others. Forever and always, I will continue to prosper and triumph through all trials and tribulations. My Black life is power in itself."

Jesulayomi Dawodu

Classification: Freshman Major: Law and Society, Frostburg State University Hometown: Largo, Maryland "My Black life matters because I am beyond the statistics. Not that I am better than anyone, but I matter just like the rest of my Black brothers and sisters. I matter because in the future I will have an impact on those who lack confidence. A Black man named Darryl Hylton inspired me to be who I am today. With his support, he helped me unlock my true potential to see who I was outside of a statistic. Living in this generation there is no telling what is going to happen, so we should live everyday like it's our last and live it smart. That is what living as a Black male feels like to me. My Black life matters and forever will because I have a heart, mind, future, and a purpose here. Nothing but peace, love, and success. Stay blessed."

Robert Dudley

Classification: Sophomore Major: Music Performance, concentration in percussion, Methodist University Hometown: Fayetteville, North Carolina "Why does my Black life matter? I am Robert Dudley, a biracial male with high hopes in music. I want to show other black boys and girls that band in middle and high school is cool despite what their friends may say. I’m a full tuition scholarship awardee. I am a strong advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve signed many petitions and went to a couple of protests. It is our duty as young black people to guide our younger brothers and sisters down the right path to ensure their future is better than what we are going through. We are on the forefront of change and this is why Black Lives Matter and why my Black life matters."


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The Educated Mentor




Moving Beyond Initiatives SAVE THE DATE


the mentor recognizing trailblazer, Roderick Heath By: Dr. Darryl Hylton


AÂ husband, father, brother, scholar, advocate, and practitioner, Mr. Roderick Heath is the epitome of what is means to get a second chance in life. Hailing from the small town of Monroe, NC, Mr. Heath did not have the best home life growing up. Although he lived with his grandparents, he really took life head on in raising himself along side his siblings. Mr. Heath is a firstgeneration college student who was heavily involved in sports in high school. Because of his athletic ability, he was given a pass on many of the academic expectations. Consequently, when he reached his senior year of high school - a very monumental time for athletes looking to be recruited for collegiate sports - many recruiters withheld scholarship opportunities because of his unsatisfactory grades. Despite not having the greatest academic record, there was one school who took a chance on him. This school was Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC. While attending Livingstone College, it was Roderick's intention to play football; however, like many players in their first year, he didn't make it on the field. Discouraged, he quit the football team and ultimately quit school after

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the first semester. While at home, he landed a job working in a Level 3 Group Home where he first discovered his passion for transforming Black males lives. After about three years of employment, he was promoted to supervisor due to his ability to connect with the "roughest" children because he saw each child beyond their circumstance; he saw them as humans, first.

It was those moments working with the children where Roderick thought about going back to college. But it wasn't until one weekend when he was out on the town where he saw one of his friends, who attended North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC, who told him that he needed to come back to school because if he continued down the path he was on, he would be dead or in jail. The next day, he convinced himself to apply to NCCU and continue his college journey. Fast forward, after graduating with his bachelors and masters degrees, Roderick worked in an elementary school as a reading coach in Monroe, but his heart belonged to Durham and became home. Reflecting on his journey to this point, I asked Mr. Heath about any influential people or mentors that positively impacted his life. First and foremost he named Ms. Huntley. When asked why, his response was,

A mentor is someone that truly understands you. Someone that spends time to get to know you so that they bring the best out of you. Someone you can call/text and share your inner feelings with knowing they're not going to judge you."

"She would always speak life into us. She was the most aggravating yet sweetest lady. She meant well. . . I look back and still to this day, as a grown man, she would say on Facebook, "I knew you always had it." She saw stuff in us that we didn't see." The second influential person Roderick mentioned was a gentleman by the name of, Marion Bruce. When sharing about him, Roderick says, "He really sat down and showed us what college looked like. He took us to football games. The first time I learned about The Educated Mentor

Greek life was from him. But he just spoke about college and what we could do. . . in life." The AAMI at NCCU The second half of our interview focused more on the work he is currently doing at North Carolina Central University. Roderick currently serves as the Director of the Men's Achievement Center, African-American Male Initiative (AAMI). Since original inception in 2009 as the Centennial Scholars, the AAMI is a specialized living-learning community based initiative in which members participate in academic, leadership, identity, financial, and spiritual development, as well as opportunities to experience a sense of manhood/masculinity and brotherhood. Serving approximately 160 students, the program's ultimate goal is to assist in their retention and persistence. To achieve this goal, the AAMI has a strong focus on getting students acclimated to campus early through creating a sense of belonging with participants. Being a living-learning community based program, students have the opportunity to reside in the same residential facility on campus. Now, an all-male residential facility seems like it could pose many issues; however, Mr. Heath shares that it's actually quite the opposite. By living together, he noticed a


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decrease in negative student behavioral interactions. Students took pride and ownership of the residential space and did their fair share with regard to its upkeep. This model, according to Roderick, is a critical piece that has a high impact on the retention of his students. He states, "With Black males, they leave because they don't feel at home. These students know what they want and if they're not happy, they're not staying. So, if we can get the students grounded during their freshman year, that's how we'll keep them." Over the years, his statement has proven to be true as the program has achieved a 94% retention rate with a cumulative program grade point average of 2.76. Additionally, to build the sense of belonging outside of the residential space, the program offers opportunities for the gentlemen to convene through monthly meetings, bi-weekly one-on-one sessions, and other activities throughout the semester. A Typical Day in the AAMI With consideration of all that Mr. Heath does for the AAMI, I wanted to take a closer look at what a typical day consists of for him. He shares, "A typical day for me, I get calls as early as 7am to put out fires. I always get up in the morning on my way to work and

send out a daily affirmation to my guys through our GroupMe. The affirmations could be a poem, a video I saw on YouTube, something inspirational. Sometimes, I just get up and say 'I love y'all'. You'd be surprised how I allowed these young men to be comfortable with saying 'I Love You'. Once I'm in the office, I use the first couple of hours looking at my schedule seeing how many one-on-one appointments I have with the young men. But, I'm not one to sit in my office all day. I'll go to the facilities to check on the guys. I'll walk out to the '10:40 Breaks' - A time where students at NCCU take a break from class to socialize and engage with each other outside of the academic space - and the dining halls."

The Educated Mentor

excellence, brotherhood, and said that they wanted to sign up for this program and follow all the rules and regulations."

The program hosts about 160 students between all four cohorts and Mr. Heath explains how it can sometimes be challenging to get all students to follow up.

After browsing the campus for his check-ins, he continues his day by making sure other moving pieces of the program are in place (i.e. tutors, oneon-one coaching, etc.). Since COVID-19 first began back in March 2020, Roderick shares how he has had over 8,000+ contacts with the students to include wellness checks making appropriate referrals, as needed. Every day is unique in what it brings to the table, but Roderick is ready to take on the challenges because he leads with love. He lets students know, if they show up, he'll give them the world, and that's how he keeps students interested and motivated to remain in the program.

"It's 160 of them total so it's hard to get all of them to follow your routine, so I go out and find them. I'll walk by class; I don't make it obvious, but they know I'm there. Once I started doing that, students started popping up on me to check in."

The Most Rewarding Experience Despite all of the daily moving parts of the program that keep Roderick busy, I asked him, "What is the most rewarding part of this experience?" Roderick replied,

This approach to engaging his students is not meant to be overbearing, as he describes, but a means of accountability and responsibility. "We have an oath and creed that we have them speak on and I tell them, this is the oath and creed that they signed up for. They signed up for academic Fall 2020 Edition

"Coming from a stressful meeting and having 15 students waiting and wanting to see you and believe in the advice you have to give is most rewarding. It’s like having 160 sons." Conclusion As the interview came to a close, we allowed Mr. Heath to share words of wisdom with others who are currently

(or interested in) working with African-American males. The first piece of advice was to listen. Many times older individuals think that because they're older they know a little bit more and while that may be partially true, there are still knowledge and experiences that can be shared from the students; if you listen to them first, the relationship will flourish. The second and last piece of advice encouraged individuals to sign up to mentor because it's in one's heart not because they feel like students need mentors. As Roderick states, 'it is more than just a task, it's a heart giving opportunity to grow together." Mr. Roderick Heath, son, brother, husband, father, role model, mentor and more, we thank you for your unwavering commitment to serving Black males. We thank you for making a difference in the lives of others. We thank you for continuing to set the standard. We thank and salute you for being a trailblazer in the field of mentoring African-American males. To learn more about the Men's Achievement Center or the AfricanAmerican Male Initiative at NCCU, visit their website at The Educated Mentor




Dear Brother

"The key to this process of transforming adversities into assets (simply put) is making a choice." - Michael Ferron

A Word of Wisdom


Dear Brother, As the world enters the fourth quarter of the year, you all are entering your first. For some that may mean returning to or stepping foot on a campus for the first time; however, it can also mean logging in from your bedroom ready to take on, the “new normal”. That phrase “new normal” seems to carry such weight these days, though beyond COVID-19 the impacts of this year aren’t new at all. I could begin by naming every black man and woman that has lost their lives at the hands of police, this year alone, yet something tells me you all are fully aware. So aware that you could name more individuals than social media cares to make a hashtag. The question then becomes, "What justice would that bring you? What peace could you experience from reliving trauma?" In this instance, not much at all; therefore, allow these words to begin to create space for continued healing in the midst of “new normals”. Admittedly, I write to you all with heavy emotions channeled on one pivotal truth: We can transform our adversities into assets, though the process to do so requires honesty, openness, and transparency. While it may seem those words are just synonyms of one another, each has its own distinct set of choices that can lead to experiencing more moments of peace in unstable times. Well, here it is, first the choices of honesty are founded on the ability to be free from deception. Whether you are a freshman or super-senior, being deceived that you are not enough or you don’t belong is an example of the binding power of deception. Secondly, the choice of openness requires not having any confining barriers that you cannot overcome. Barriers like, how to focus on succeeding academically while trying to stay aloft financially. Last but not least, the choices of transparency have pillars of accessibility to being readily understood. That requires vulnerability and brave spaces to be emotionally present. The key to this process of transforming adversities into assets (simply put) is making a choice. One could define choice as the exploration of all options in any given situation. Notably, this could appear overwhelming in theory; however, in practice, it is the building block to the peace we need in this year. The choice to free ourselves from the deceptive notion that we can not overcome allows us to share our joy, pain and hope in this unpredictable year. All that has been shared would be worthless without a call to action. So, my charge is to reflect and use this process to answer two critical questions to maintain your peace: Who are you? and What is your why? Knowing who you are allows you to never forget where you are coming from. Articulating your why, allows you to never forget where you are going. Stay committed to the journey even when life continues to give you “new normals”.

Michael Ferron Your Brother,

Michael Ferron Daemen College Alumnus '13


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The Educated Mentor


Featured Articles


Six Strategies for Successful Sophomores By: Dr. C.L. Coleman


Freshman year was great! During the first quarter of your college career, you probably learned your way around campus, what college work was like, changes you needed to make to your routine and how to navigate college. Now, in the second quarter of college you must build upon what you learned last year. Here are six strategies to employ in your sophomore year to best position you for longlasting success in and out of the classroom.


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SOCIAL INVOLVEMENT As a sophomore, it is important to align yourself with like-minded people. A large portion of the college education is attributed to out of classroom experiences. We strongly recommend you identify an organization that aligns with your interest. Whether it’s fraternal, professional, honorary, or social, finding people who are headed in the same direction as you can be inspiring and motivational. The act of joining an organization connects and cements you to campus as a representative of its institutional values. If you are already in an organization, start working towards a leadership position. Organizational positions such as secretary, treasurer, and chairperson, can often prepare you for roles and duties within your future jobs and career.


TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FACULTY MEMBERS AND THEIR EXPERTISE As you matriculate in your academic program, you will transition from general education courses to coursework aligned with your major and desired profession. More importantly, the instructors teaching these courses have been exactly where you are, and they often have interesting stories about their paths prior to becoming faculty members. The Educated Mentor

Identify a few faculty members to connect with, make a note of their office hours, and begin to drop by to see them for biweekly meetings. Ideally, these meetings will merge together academic, professional, and personal backgrounds to shape possible career paths of your own.


MASTER SETBACKS FROM FRESHMEN YEAR Freshmen year you spent countless nights perfecting your assignments and preparing notes, only to get to class and the professor didn’t review the chapter, or you received the same grade as the person next to you for a quarter of the work. Freshmen year you read every sentence, comma, and semicolon on each page of your expensive textbooks. Now that you are a sophomore and you understand the game, you can work smarter not harder. In the end you realize professors just want you to get to the point and prove what you know. As you continue your college career, you will recognize that life is not about the fluff but more about the outcome of the product. It is important you learn how to work efficiently to maximize the outcome while minimizing the output.


CREATE HEALTHY HABITS TO SUPPORT MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH At this point in your college career, you may have gained a few pounds since

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your freshmen or high school days (hence the phrase “freshmen 15”). I get it; life is different now that you can take naps between classes and you have a meal plan with several eatery options nearby. Additionally, you may be more stressed than usual. Especially if you are first generation college student, struggling to survive in college, or pressured to perform well academically. Fortunately, it is not too late for you to take back control over your health. Create times to visit the gym on campus or join a workout class if you like group settings. If this is not an option, create a club on campus for individuals who want to work out, eat healthy, and train. In regard to mental health services, often times universities either have counselors on campus for you to speak with or provide free access to counseling services of campus. Take advantage of these services because your tuition dollars are paying for it. Ultimately, it is 100% your

responsibility to create healthy habits and these same habits will follow you into your career life post college.


REBRAND YOURSELF The sophomore year is the year you rebrand yourself for long-term success. If you’ve partied as freshmen, great. You can continue to socialize and have fun. However, you should clean up your social media profiles and began to position yourself as professional leader among your peers. After reading this article, log into all of your social media networks and edit them.

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You should remove post and profile pictures if they could be explicit, questionable, or used against you. Additionally, you should revisit all of your tagged photos and post. Consider deleting outdated items and archiving personal keepsakes for your eyes only.

Ultimately, the world is about who you know not what you know. Moving forward, be selective on what you allow on your social media accounts because your accounts represent you. As hiring manager and director who has served on several search committees, Facebook and Instagram are considered to be “fairgame” like your LinkedIn or resume. Please keep this in mind as you apply for internships and part-time jobs.


GET A JOB Speaking of jobs, if your studies will allow it, find employment. In recent years we have seen college graduates leave their institution without any work experience. We suggest taking advantage of part-time and/or work

study positions on campus. On campus employment is ideal because institutional professionals allow you to be a student first. While it is ideal to find employment that will merge academic and professional experience together, a parttime job in college that is outside of your future career options can have many benefits as well. For example, holding a parttime job in college showcases commitment, perseverance, and diligence. In addition, parttime jobs also provide students with life experiences in customer service, meeting job expectations, and working with team members. Besides receiving payment for hard work, a part time position will advance your professional skills and propel you forward in pool of applicants without it.


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The Pandemic: An Even More

By: Dr. Tymon M. Graham


In these unique and unprecedented times of COVID-19, it is even more challenging to attend college, both inperson and virtual. During this time we have had the time to catch up with family and friends and even watch television shows, old and new. One of my favorite television shows to watch growing up was 'A Different World'. During this pandemic, I have had the opportunity to go back and watch many episodes to which I am motivated yet even more.

A Different World gave an insight into the HBCU campus life—from coursework to residence life to student activities. This particular sitcom showed the truest life of HBCU students that I have seen on television.

Those unfamiliar with the sitcom, A Different World, should note that it was a “spin-off” of The Cosby Show. The Cosby Show portrayed an accomplished family in the African-American community and taught many lessons relating to relationships, finances, responsibility and most importantly the path to college.

The theme song, sung by Aretha Franklin in seasons 2-5 begins with the line, “I know my parents love me, stand behind me come what may.” The song in itself reminds us that with our matriculation in college our parents will forever be behind us. The term “parent” can be interchanged with a professor, staff member, or mentor on


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we focus on our goal. You can dish it, we can take it. Just remember that you've been told . . . It's a different world, than where ya come from!” This part of the song motivates me every time I hear it. The goal is the degree! Whatever comes your way whether in form of a new leadership role, that difficult course assignment, or pledging a Greek organization, you can make it! Just like the Book of Jeremiah tells us, remain like a tree planted by a river of water, remain steady. Trust the Process. Remain focused. Don’t Give Up! A college campus, better yet, the college experience, may be a “different world” than where you may come from, but it is a learning experience. Time on “the yard” is a chance to reinvent yourself. It is a time to get to know yourself and get to know the wider world.

your campus in addition to our biological parent. Whether it be to guide us, support us, or hold us accountable, that “parent” remains behind students for academic and personal success. I always encourage students to take some time early in the semester to take a self-assessment of the person at home or on the campus who may serve in that role for you. My favorite part of the theme song says “Here's our chance to make it, if Fall 2020 Edition

Now with COVID-19 in place we must still navigate and persist in college. Though things may be conducted virtually, take the time to still remain as personal as possible. Take the time to get to know your professor. Ask for a virtual meeting to introduce yourself and what you may be excited for during the semester. When you do not understand the topic or course material, take some time to touch base with your professor. Additionally, seek out virtual tutoring if necessary. Just like your college experience, 'A Different World' often featured celebrities. People like Tupac (who in my opinion is better than Biggie Smalls, though this can be debated later), Jada Pinkett Smith, Patti LaBelle, Halle Berry, Marques Houston and The Educated Mentor


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Don’t let the constant Coronavirus news and updates stress you. Be cautious, make smart decisions, WEAR A MASK but… RELAX! While you may feel you are in this alone, know your professors and college staff members are in this with you as well. They know what you are going through. How? Because they are going through it too. They can RELATE!


Jermaine Dupri all appeared on the show. One character in particular appears on the show first as a supporting cast member and then as a main character. That character, Whitley Gilbert (played by Jasmine Guy) was a high-pitched southern belle who was the DEFINITION of “bad and boujee”.

It's a different world, than where ya come from"


Coursework and life itself can be tiresome and a lot to manage. Don’t forget to take some time for yourself. Whether that is in the form of getting a fresh haircut, socially distant activities with a small group of friends (no COVID Parties), therapy, or “happy hour” via Zoom, don’t miss opportunities to RELEASE. We are truly in an even more DIFFERENT WORLD! So press on, believe in yourself, and persist in your studies during this pandemic. Don’t forget to RELAX, RELATE, and RELEASE. How will you do the three of these during this academic year? These look different for everyone. How do these look for you personally? What intentional activities will you do so that you can Relax, Relate, and Release?

-Lyric from 'A Different World' theme song

Upon her ascension to the main cast role in season 2 of the show, she introduced us to three words which I find to be a reminder of one of the biggest lessons learned from the television show 'A Different World'. On numerous episodes we hear the infamous line from Whitley Gilbert--Relax, Relate, Release! In the midst of these uncertain and wavering times we must remember to RELAX, RELATE, and RELEASE.


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10 Things Mentors Can Do to Support Black Students Mental Health & Wellness through Virtual or Socially Distant Environments By: Jameco McKenzie, M.Ed and Armando Martinez OPINION: Jameco McKenzie, M.Ed., GCCE is a doctoral student in Organizational Leadership at Gardner-Webb University and currently works as a Residence Life Coordinator at NC State University. Armando Martinez is a graduate student at The Ohio State University studying Higher Education and Student Affairs. We are being asked to attend college while surviving two pandemics. Racism has for centuries been the cause of the disproportionate loss of life for Black people across the globe; racism is the reason so many of our brothers and sisters have been unjustly ripped from our communities. And more recently, the COVID 19 pandemic has caused extended quarantine and isolation from our loved ones. The effects of the two pandemics are magnified by their interaction. On one hand, Black and Brown folks have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic at a rate higher than their racial counterparts, and this is only worsened by class disparities. On the other hand, the nature of the isolation imposed by the virus has caused our social media timelines to be more active than they have been. Coupled with some of the biggest protests in history, all demanding justice for the Black lives lost at the hands of the law enforcement officers, we, and our students, are being inundated with reminders of the injustices perpetrated against Black people by the very nation posed to protect it. With limited resources for healing spaces where our students can interact with their peers to process, what role do we have in supporting our students facing the same issues as us?


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Here are 10 action items that mentors can consider implementing to help empower young black men in their health and wellness.


Role model vulnerability and self-disclosure. Supporting students means role modeling and having an appropriate level of self-disclosure. In these times we must be honest with our students; they look up to us for direction and support on processing all that they may be going through. As professional mentors, we should share honestly and appropriately with our students. By role modeling to our students that we too are struggling, and wrestling with all that is happening in our environments, we normalize that dealing with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty is normal.


Utilize multiple means of communication. A lot of our institutions might be using Zoom, Canvas, Blackboard, or Outlook. When possible, barring legal requirements, use software that meets your students where they are at. Your students may be familiar with other means of engagement, such as GroupMe, WhatsApp, and Discord. Poll your students, ask them questions. Just like in advising we ask questions like, “How would you like to be communicated with?” “How would you like to hear feedback?” “What is your preferred method of communication?” These

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questions must be adapted into a virtual environment to ensure our students are consenting to the type of relationships they are sustaining virtually via zoom.


Ask your students how they are really doing and do not take “I’m good” for an answer. Normalize being thorough with responses and conversation rather than being surface. By asking questions that require deeper reflection, we role model to our students that it is ok for Black men to explore the full range of emotions, feelings, uncertainties, fears, and thoughts. It shares with them that we don’t always have to be “good” and that is just ok.


Create opportunities in the mentoring relationship for students to reflect and journal. One of the many approaches to microcounseling and helping speaks about the importance of reflection and externalization. Through the use of the Narrative Theory Approach, you would encourage the student to reflect and externalize things that they are thinking about. Through using this approach, students would be able to separate themselves as an individual from the issues they may be facing. Through telling one's story through Fall 2020 Edition

reflection and journaling they can make meaning and break down problems into smaller specific issues that are more comprehensible to address and understand. Additionally, through this approach, students can think about times that the problems they are facing did not overcome them or consume their time and reframe the idea that “things are always going bad with me” into a mindset that says, “while this is challenging, I have overcome situations like this before and will overcoming again.”


Facilitate diversity, the type and format of support programs, and outreach given. The way that we look at our institutional roles must be reimagined. Often, programs are measured by numbers. More than ever, the impact that can’t be measured by numbers will have a profound impact on our students. When you can, consider a walk to and from locations on campus as smaller group opportunities for Black men to support and uplift one another. When quarantine and isolation are as high as they are, simply seeing others provides moments where we can meaningfully recharge.


Bring In Experts & Scholars (Virtually) to curate care for our Black students. Carve out time to use large group mentoring in a virtual environment to engage professional counselors/therapists or scholars to help students process their day-to-day experiences in a group environment. Conversations about how to survive in this virtual environment where we are being inundated with Black death are essential. Tap into your resources on campus to use this as an opportunity to engage students with new experiences. Your counseling spaces on campus will be looking for ways to engage students virtually. Or, consider how you might engage your students in personal development. With being home and virtual engagement, there has been an added measure of time in our lives. We no longer struggle with things like commutes or fully getting ready to leave the house.

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What can career services provide to students in this time that might spark their entrepreneurial spirit? As always, it is best to prompt your students directly so they might provide you direction with where to go with the year. After all, we do this for them, they should be driving the vision in hopes that they will be that much more engaged.





Consider ways to celebrate one another. In-person, this might have looked like weekly shoutouts to those involved in the program. Virtually, this might look like weekly touch points with your program holding space for sharing personal accomplishments or rough moments of the week. We won’t be able to know or see what is going on with each other behind the screen. Therefore, intentional moments where students can share are only that much more meaningful. As always, model behavior! Share your highs and lows as you feel comfortable to as well. Acknowledge but do not dwell in the things that we have no control over. Stephen Covey in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, discusses the concept of Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. Life is complicated, a lot is happening around and to us in society as a collective and as individuals. By adopting the concept of the circle of concerns and influence we can share with our students a technique to visualize how to balance and address things in our life. By focusing the most on things we control and influence, our students and ourselves can use this activity to assess where we are spending most of our time and energy. We can review and make goals for ourselves on how we can address things within our realm of control, influence and reimagine how we can be more effective personally, and what strategies or tools might be needed to live a more balanced life.


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Examples from

Encourage self-exploration. We have to acknowledge the privilege we have in being able to virtually engage with our students while these dual pandemics are ongoing. Use this time to push our students to explore more about themselves and their history. This is a prime moment for selfreflection and growth. Incorporate and develop new strategies for self-care and scheduling. Selfaccountability is key. Encourage students to push their boundaries and explore uncharted territory. All the time, emphasize taking care of oneself. Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Engaging students virtually does not mean just turning all in-person engagements into Zoom meetings. This will be the hardest part of the coming semesters. Not everything will be able to be done virtually, and that is okay. We can’t expect that ourselves, or our students, to be able to engage at the same level as before. The important piece that we make it clear that we are still available and present, for them albeit virtually. We hope that by exploring these ten action steps, mentors and the students they empower will be able to develop personal strategies to successfully navigate and thrive during these challenges and complex times we are currently experiencing. References Corey, G. (2009). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. 8th ed. Australia; Belmont, CA: Thomson/Brooks/Cole. Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic ([Rev. ed.].). New York: Free Press.

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"Mentoring has given me the confidence to apply myself to anything that may interest me in addition to the knowledge received to know that I can compete with my peers." Keith Jones

University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign, '20

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During this time of considerable uncertainty, we've been comforted, encouraged, and humbled by the outpouring of generosity and support from our community. Remarkable people and organizations have all stepped up to support the mission of Operation G.R.A.D, Inc. It's HEROES like you that will help keep us afloat in these uncertain times and see us through to the end of this storm. To us, YOU are our heroes and we thank you for helping us meet the challenges of this moment so we can continue to provide the highest order of care with integrity, compassion, respect, and care to serve the Black males. As a token of our appreciation, we will be acknowledging everyone who donated to the organization in 'Q1'. Operation G.R.A.D celebrates YOU!


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Protect The Legacy. In 2016, our co-founder and CEO began a journey that would soon turn into a transformative experience. His experience in the field of higher education revealed to him that there was an unmet need and he was determined to address it. Four years later, he and co-founder Jamie Enge have expanded their passion [mentoring] into a life changing opportunity for Black males across the country. Like many great non-profit organizations, its success comes from strong and dedicated supporters like YOU! Your contributions thus far have helped us accomplish many milestones, and for that we are grateful. However, this is only the beginning. As Operation G.R.A.D, Inc. continues to affect change in the nation, we are going to need your continuous support. Help advance the mission and vision of the organization by making a recurring monthly donation. Whether $5, $10, or $20 a month, you are setting a wonderful example for others of helping to protect the legacy of Operation G.R.A.D, Inc. If you are already a recurring donor, thank you. If you would like to become a recurring donor visit our website to begin your journey today.

Operation G.R.A.D, Incorporated is classified by the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Any monies donated to the organization is tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Our Federal Tax ID is 84-4956308. If you have any questions regarding our tax-exempt status, please contact us at


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