Tulsa Community College held a virtual event on Monday in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, aiming to build on the dreams of Dr. King and provide equal education opportunities for everyone.
The annual African American Male Symposium is expanding its outreach this year to include high school students. TCC said it’s part of the school’s ongoing equity effort aiming to help Black students succeed in college and in life.
"What was the message for MLK Day? What was the action of MLK Day that actually said, 'Move forward with intention together,'" said Dr. Dewayne Dickens, TCC director of Culturally Responsive Practices.
Research shows Black students in the U.S. are less likely to enroll in honors courses in high school or be accepted into competitive four-year colleges. Dr. Dickens said that's why Tulsa Community College is working to narrow academic achievement gaps for minority students.
“We take the students, as well, who are struggling and are at the lowest test scores, lowest confidence levels,” Dr. Dickens said.
TCC said in the last five years, through a comprehensive approach, it's seen about a 50% increase in the three-year graduation rate for full-time underrepresented minority students. However, their rates for Black males remain lower than for other groups.
"There are a number of barriers that already exist—transportation, health access, babysitting, housing,” said Dr. Dickens. “When the pandemic hits it affects them even more."
The African American Male Symposium works to connect students with community leaders.
“If you have one person in your corner then you have a reason to be successful,” said Dr. Dickens. “We will be introducing them to dozens of people who are in their corner."
Program Organizer Michael Singleton said they're also addressing racial healing.
"Knowing where we came from and then where we're going,” said Singleton, academic success coach at TCC. “So, growing off of that ancestry. What they've done. That heritage. Learning more about that and then growing from that."
Dr. Dickens and Singleton agree as Tulsa marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre it's time to have these conversations.