Vice Chancellor Rome hired a graduate student, to help select 25 minority males in their first year at NCCU and develop a plan. Most of them had unremarkable grade point averages in high school. If they followed the trend at NCCU, they would have ended their freshman year with a 2.2 average GPA, o r they may have dropped out of college altogether.
Rome’s sights were set far higher than that, and his task was to transfer that vision to the 25 s cholars. With a combination of tutorial sessions, small-group meetings, individual encouragement, speakers, etiquette instruction and occasional out-of-town trips the Centennial Scholars Program has come into clear success.
By the end of the first semester, the program was so attractive that males who learned about it by word of mouth were banging on the door to join. Parents who heard of its existence pleaded that their sons to be admitted. By May, the number of s cholars had more than doubled to 57. Seventeen of them had realized the goal of Centennial Scholars, a 3.0 grade point average. Nearly all of the remaining two-thirds had maintained at least a 2.5 GPA.
“My goal was to have African-American males who can hold their own against any males coming from anywhere in the world, , g o to any school they choose, g o on to any advanced degree that they want to obtain, g et any job they want to get a nd be competitive, ” Rome said in an interview.
Rome said many colleges focus on the pipeline issue of increasing enrollment of black males, and indeed, NCCU has its own recruitment strategies. Rome’s focus is aiding those who do enter NCCU’s front gate. “We should be overly committed to them,” he said, “because we don’t know the obstacles they had to overcome just to get in.”
Jason Dorsette, Centennial Scholars Program Director said , “Our students felt like we really cared. ”Rome’s and Nelms’ passion for the future of black males has made it difficult for the program to fail. The entire staff shares the same zeal. “We intentionally sought people who had that passion for student success by any means necessary,” Dorsette said. At their first meeting, the question was posed to the scholars, “Are you in it to win it?” and their response was “YES.”
For Dorsette, long-term success of Centennial Scholars will be young men marching across the platform within four years to lay claim to their diplomas. He would like to see NCCU “brand” Centennial Scholars in a way that draws young men to apply for and attend the university. “I want them to think , ‘Yes, I know they have the Law School, I know they have BBRI (the Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute), but I want to go to NCCU because they have the Centennial Scholars Program .”
The Centennial Scholars Program now serves more than 300 minority male students on the campus of NCCU.The staff travels throughout the country presenting at national conferences, symposiums, community colleges and two- and four- year institutions sharing our developed best practices. It is our goal to remain on the cutting edge of the happenings of the millennial student. The Centennial Scholars Program now has become a gemstone for the University as it continues to produce intelligent, professional and successful minority male students at NCCU and in the community.