TMCC’s Men of Color Mentorship Program welcomed a new cohort into the mentorship program this past weekend when 45 new high school sophomores from Galena, Hug, North Valleys and Reed High Schools were paired with a mentor who will help them to succeed in high school and to prepare for their educational journeys in college.
Men of Color high school students are paired with a TMCC peer mentor who works with the high school student to establish goals and to develop life skills that will support them in their college careers and beyond. Ethan Arseneau, who is a senior at North Valleys High School, said the program has helped him to get a head-start on his college education. “They offer classes over the summer, and so I’ve already earned credits toward my degree,” he said. Arseneau has taken Political Science 101, Math 126 and English 101, and will take English 102 over the winter break.
The Men of Color program, which celebrated the high school graduation of its first cohort this year, has also received national recognition for its important work of helping young minority men to reach their academic goals. The first graduating class from the program boasted a 90% graduation rate with a 2.75 GPA or higher; that is significantly higher than the graduation rate for students of color who do not have these supports. According to studies, the graduation rates for this population are, at best, 60–70%.
Arseneau, who plans on pursuing a degree in Journalism, is also a first-generation college student. “Men of Color can help me with college in ways that my family can’t—so they can help with the FAFSA application or applying for scholarships.”
Huy Pham, who is a senior at Reed High School, also attended the summit where he attended a workshop that covered the basics of financial aid, which included creating an FSA ID, enabling him to complete the 2019–2020 FAFSA application. Pham’s been in the Men of Color program since he was a sophomore. “I really like it,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities for learning about subjects that are important for going to college. It’s like being a part of a big family—every month we meet up and they check on me to make sure everything is going OK with school. I really like having their support.”
Pham came to the United States from Vietnam when he was seven years old. He remembers that the transition wasn’t exactly easy, especially in school where he struggled as a non-native speaker. “I was the only Asian kid,” he said. These days, he’s a successful senior who’s looking to a future that includes a college degree in business.
“After high school, I’m definitely going to TMCC to get my AA in Business, and then I plan to transfer to UNR,” he said. The degree and a career in business will enable Pham to give back, something inspired by his past. “In Vietnam, struggling was a daily thing, and when I saw life on the other side of the world [in the United States] everyone has a house and lives a nice lifestyle. I want to earn that for myself and my family so that I will have the ability to help those who are not as fortunate.”
Pham’s favorite part of the MOC curriculum is the volunteer hours he and other mentors and mentees complete in Melody Lane Park. “We go to the park and we pick up trash,” said Pham. “Helping to keep that park clean makes me feel good—[I look at the work we did] and I think ‘I was a part of that.’”
Pham likes having the support from the program, even though he admits he’s always been a good student. “I’ve seen other kids who’ve been struggling, and the mentors ask them if it’s because a class is too hard, or if they need tutoring. They care about your success.” Because of that, Pham encourages other students to take advantage of the Men of Color program. “There are so many people here who can help you, you really can’t go wrong.”
“You can always try it out,” said Arseneau who thinks that interested high school students have nothing to lose from the mentorship program.
The Summit event was inspiring for both returning and incoming students, but especially for Pham and Arseneau who both said they plan on becoming Men of Color mentors one day.
“It’s important for high school students to realize that they have to do what’s right for them. Don’t just say ‘no’ because your friend isn’t doing something or because of what other people will think. In college, you’ve got to follow your own path, and the sooner you can start thinking for yourself, the better,” said Pham.