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College In Bronx Hosts Event Aimed At Empowering Young Black, Latino Men

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National statistics note a growing high school drop out and low college attendance rate for African-American and Latino males. A Bronx college hosted an event Wednesday to address those issues. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

The professional men who attended a male empowerment event in the Bronx Thursday said that when they were growing up, some in city housing projects in single parent homes, the atmosphere wasn't much different than it is for young men today.

"It was very, very difficult, especially because, as I indicated, I didn't have a father in the household to guide me along, to tell me about certain things to stay away from, certain people to stay away from, certain things not to do," said Ruben Franco, a New York City civil court judge. "It was difficult running the streets of New York without guidance."

The doctors, lawyers, bankers and other leaders in their fields shared those stories with about 400 young men from city schools, mostly in the Bronx, at Monroe College's Male Empowerment event.

The story of working hard to achieve a goal may seem cliche, but for many black and Latino males, the idea of professional success is hard to grasp. So hearing stories from someone like themselves was welcomed encouragement.

"It feels real good," said Dwayne Martin, a student at Truman High School. "He's 23 years old. He just graduated college last year. He's doing his thing. That's what I want to do. I want to do my thing for my family, support my family also."

"To see that we share that common ground, it makes me feel that I'm not alone and I can actually become the person that I want to become," said Joshua Castillo, a student at Pelham Preparatory Academy.

The four-hour event wasn't just speakers on a podium. During most of the time, the boys sat and had group conversations with the 64 mentors.

In the four years since the event began, it has quadrupled in size, with plans to make it even larger.

"This conference has been booked since a month ago," said Cecil Wright, director of communications at Monroe College. "We're fully booked this conference. And up to yesterday, we had calls about schools that wanted to come, but there's no space."

Next year, Monroe will make the event a two-day conference. The college is also toying with the idea of reaching out to more through video conferencing, all in the hopes of changing the stereotypes that plague urban communities, one young man at a time.

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