Robert Morris University is hosting the annual Black Male Leadership Development Institute at its Moon Township campus—an 8-day residency program to promote higher education and community leadership that began yesterday for 65 African American high school students from a variety of schools in the region: public, charter and private.
Dr. Rex Crawley, Communications professor and co-director of the Institute, says each day centers around a theme such as academics, ethics, community involvement. Thursday’s topic is accountability and will feature a panel discussion with city police and detectives about interactions with law enforcement and how to avoid the prison system.
Crawley says the program hosted 50 students last year but had over 120 applicants this year. The 65 were chosen for leadership potential, not necessarily high achievement. The conference is an effort to counteract recent studies that show a diminishing presence of African American males in college--a phenomenon that Crawley says will leave this generation far behind if not remedied.
Recognizing the importance of role models, twenty-five community volunteers will share diverse professional experiences with students who might otherwise know nothing about particular career opportunities.
Crawley says some of the participants go to suburban schools with few other African American students, so this is the first time they've had a learning experience with a large number of other black guys, while some go to predominantly African American schools but have not felt celebrated for their unique opportunities to contribute to society in positive ways.
The institute will keep in touch with the students throughout the year.