VSU receives AAMI grant to fund HEROES Institute

November 11, 2005

Charles Harmon Director of University Relations, Sementha Mathews Manager of Public Information and Media Relations

VSU receives AAMI grant to fund HEROES Institute

Valdosta State University has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) to implement the HEROES (Helping Everyone Reach Optimum Educational Success) Institute, a program designed to increase the recruitment of college-bound African-American males.

VSU is one of 10 USG institutions to receive an award ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 in the third round of funding under the Board of Regents' African-American Male Initiative (AAMI). The 10 winning proposals were selected from 19 entries that competed for $200,000 in grant funding.

The selection process for approximately 25 to 30 African-American males in the ninth grade at Valdosta High School will begin immediately. Participants in the HEROES Institute will receive one-on-one mentoring services, academic tutoring, preparatory sessions for the Georgia High School Graduation Test, social adjustment courses, academic workshops and other resources that will encourage college enrollment. The program is scheduled to begin in January 2006.

"The VSU AAMI team, composed of VSU faculty, staff members, students and community educators, is elated that the Board of Regents has awarded VSU an AAMI Grant," said Dr. Shirley H. Hardin, director of African American Studies and professor of English at VSU. Dr. Hardin also serves as the HEROES project director and is VSU's liaison to the Board of Regents' AAMI.

"It clearly shows that the board recognizes VSU's concerted effort to eliminate those barriers facing African-American males' access to higher education and, thus, providing alternative career choices," said Dr. Hardin. "Moreover, the team's dedication in proposing the HEROES Institute is a visible demonstration of the institution and the community's commitment to diversity and the success of all constituents."

VSU will serve as a civic partner by matching the grant with an additional $15,000, one of the grant requirements. The $30,000 budget will be divided among personnel (four degreed teachers and six college-student mentors), equipment, travel, supplies and fees.

African-American males who are already successfully enrolled at VSU will serve as mentors, tutors and workshop assistants. Dr. Hardin said the mentors selected are student members of VSU's AAMI team, who were also instrumental in the grant proposal process.

Some of the proposed short-term objectives of the HEROES Institute are to increase African-American male retention rates at VHS's Ninth Grade Academy and to increase their enrollment in the college prep curriculum. Long term outcomes include an increased graduation rate, increased SAT/ACT scores, and an increased USG college enrollment rate among African-American males.

Mike Samaras, assistant principal for the VHS Ninth Grade Academy and Essie Rayford, VHS ninth grade counselor, will serve as VHS liaisons to the HEROES Institute.

"Establishing HEROES Institute at VSU will help ensure increased retention and graduation of African American males from Valdosta High School as well as ensure an increased access to educational resources, thus encouraging college enrollment," said Hardin. "We are quite excited and are looking forward to the challenge and incomparable success of HEROES Institute at Valdosta State," said Hardin.

The recent grant award is not VSU's first attempt at encouraging and guiding African-American males to complete high school and go on to college. In 2002, the university partnered with Ware County High School to begin the "Brother to Brother" mentoring program, in which selected students made a series of visits to the VSU campus to encourage college enrollment.

VSU also supports the Southwest Georgia Higher Education Consortium, a regional economic development component of the University System of Georgia's Intellectual Capital Partnership Program (ICAPP), which initiated the Campaign for College Readiness. The campaign, titled "Education. Go Get It," emphasizes the need for parents and students to understand the importance of higher education, as well as the its academic and financial preparation.