Michael Davis has spent years juggling odd jobs while inching toward a college degree.
He’s worked as a security guard on the Strip, a retail worker at Old Navy, a custodian for the Clark County School District.
But Davis, 23, is anxious to start a career, and with the help of a new mentor, he finally has a plan. In two years, he’ll graduate from the College of Southern Nevada. Then he’ll transfer to a university and after earning a bachelor’s degree, he’ll build his own business.
Davis is among 25 students picked this spring to participate in a new mentorship program that aims to help more black and Latino men graduate from CSN.
“I’m even going golfing for the first time,” he said.
The Bump Up initiative launched last spring at CSN, where administrators are copying similar efforts from the North Carolina Community College System. Drawn by promising results in North Carolina, CSN officials hope the new program will boost performance among a minority demographic whose graduation rates have long lagged.
According to a 2014 report by the Center for Community College Student Engagement, only 5 percent of black and Latino men who attended a community college between 2012 and 2015 earned a certificate or degree within that time.
By comparison, 32 percent of white men graduated in the same three-year period.
“It’ll really make a difference,” said Cedric Crear, who owns a local marketing agency and is the only man of color on Nevada’s 13-member higher education board. “The key is not just to expose kids to the campus but also to nurture them throughout their experience on campus.”
In North Carolina, the Minority Male Mentoring Program seems to be working. According to the program’s website, 78 percent of students in the program stayed in the community college system between the fall 2012 semester and spring 2013 semester.
Among men of color who were not in the program, 68 percent remained in school, compared with 71 percent of their white male peers who also stayed in school.
“They’re coming into a new environment, and our job is to make sure they get to campus resources,” said Andrew-Bryce Hudson, who was hired last year to oversee CSN’s new program. “We even have a workshop that deals with men’s fashion. For example, you know, some men don’t know how long their tie should come down to.”
At a recruitment event Thursday night on CSN’s North Las Vegas campus, Hudson urged a group of freshmen to use smartphone reminders to keep up with commitments, to ignore their pride when they need help, and to dress neatly for school.
“You look nice, you feel nice,” Davis told his fellow students. “And when you feel nice, you get paid nice.”
The program pairs each student with two professional black or Latino men — one who works at CSN and one who works off-campus. To help students stick to the program, organizers offer them incentives like textbook vouchers and dress clothes.
The ultimate goal is that students will stick around long enough so they find someone to guide them through the college experience.
“Throughout my life, whether it was a coach or martial arts teacher or a mentor I’ve gotten on my own outside of this program, I’ve always looked for that father figure in all of these guys,” Davis said.
“I’ve always put myself in their shoes.”