RCC’s innovative partnership with the Dropout Academy is positioning RCC students for long-term success.
Nationally, state-wide, and locally, there are significant and consistent achievement gaps in higher education. In particular, colleges struggle to both attract and retain men of color. According to the MA Department of Higher Education, only 17% of low-income Latino male students and 22% of low-income African American male students who graduated from Massachusetts public high schools in 2010 went on to obtain college degrees or certificates within six years compared to an overall 50% degree/certificate six-year obtainment rate for the 2010 MA public high school graduating class.
To increase enrollment and retention rates for men of color, Roxbury Community College (RCC) brought in Dropout Academy founder and CEO Kurt Faustin to run a six-week mental health and emotional wellness program at RCC. “We were looking for more ways to create impact and expand our program offerings on campus for men of color,” says RCC Dean of Students Robyn Shahid-Bellot. “The workshops were exactly what our students needed.” Sessions run 90 minutes, with each focusing on a different issue including goal setting, developing a growth mindset, and financial literacy.
Faustin began Dropout Academy in 2020 to address a gap he saw in education. “We’re not giving people the tools they need to be successful,” he says. “Education isn’t just about memorizing dates; you need to manage your mindset. The main source of emotional intelligence is self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and relationship building.” RCC is the first college he’s worked with. Some of the 24 RCC students who will complete the program in December will serve as mentors for the next cohort of students who will participate next semester.
This is the third time RCC engineering student Lloyd Cayman, 33, of Weymouth has attempted to get his college degree. He had to leave school twice before because of challenges involved with providing for his young daughter. Taking the Dropout Academy workshop has given him clarity about his goals. “They help you open up to see what your plans are and give you a better understanding about what you’re trying to pursue,” he says. “It inspires you not to drop out and gives you hope and understanding that you can keep going.” Cayman expects to earn his associate degree at RCC in 2024. He wants to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and eventually own an e-commerce business.
RCC student Roy Kalu, 20, of Lynn has family and friends who have struggled with their mental health. He appreciates how Dropout Academy is an outlet for expression. “Many men of color aren't too fond of speaking their mind when they're dealing with difficult tasks. They keep it to themselves,” he says. “But here we can share these difficulties amongst people that are dealing with the same problems or different problems.” The captain of RCC’s basketball team is looking forward to being a mentor to future Dropout Academy students. “I would love to share knowledge and help other people succeed,” he added. Kalu is graduating with an associate degree in Information Systems Technology in the spring of 2023 and plans to pursue further educational opportunities.