The University of North Georgia (UNG) was recently awarded a $13,562.12 grant from the University System of Georgia’s (USG) African-American Male Initiative (AAMI) aimed at increasing the graduation rates of Black men.

UNG plans to match the grand with $14,136.60 of its own funds.

“This can help people reach their dreams,” said Dr. Robert Robinson, UNG’s director of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) and director for the university’s AAMI program. “I was able to have good mentors along the way who pushed me, and that’s what these students will have. “Having the right mentors helps you clarify your academic goals, which helps you clarify your professional goals.”

The grant will support Black male students seeking associate degrees with the goal of helping them advance toward bachelor’s degrees, through matching incoming students with peer mentors who are overseen by faculty and staff mentors.

UNG previously received the AAMI grant for the 2014-15 and 2016-17 school years, with the USG providing $10,000 for each year.

A system-wide initiative designed to increase the number of African-American males who complete their postsecondary education from any of the USG institutions.

AAMI’s mission is to provide an integrated program model of academic and social tools that support students around adopting a positive mindset to successfully complete classes, elevate their cumulative GPAs, matriculate through each academic level and graduate.

It’s helped the university system grow its enrollment of Black males by 84 percent and its bachelor’s degrees awarded to Black males by 138 percent in the initiative’s first 15 years.

The program started in 2003 with the USG Board of Regents approving grants to six of its institutions to have their own AAMI.

Today several Georgia colleges and universities have an AAMI program including the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, Georgia Southern University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Valdosta State University, the and University of West Georgia. UNG’s AAMI program is known as NorthSTAR.

Bikash Das, associate professor of mathematics at UNG, is assisting Robinson with the program and says it is a vital line of support for Black male students.

“It creates a sense of belonging,” Das said. “It helps them understand they are as welcomed as any other student. “This will motivate students to join the program.”

The Oconee County branch of Peach State Federal Credit Union and the 100 Black Men of America Inc. nonprofit organization in Atlanta have partnered with NorthSTAR to offer internship opportunities that provide professional growth and potential opportunities to be hired for full-time work upon graduation.

Das said UNG continues to look for other partners who can provide these types of experiences for students.

(Photo: Courtesy of University of North Georgia)

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