California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) innovative Male Success Alliance (MSA) program is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The first of its kind in California to address retention and graduation rates among male college students, and high school dropout rates and access to higher education for boys of color, the MSA has garnered accolades and the funding to help develop similar programs statewide.
Primarily serving African American and Latino males, but open to all ethnicities, the MSA was established in 2009 with a small group of seven CSUDH students. A decade later, the program has grown to approximately 80 members and, over recent years, has seen an influx of new members who had been mentored in school by MSA members in the past and guided in the pursuit of higher education.
In 2007, the California Post-secondary Education Committee reported that African American male college completion rates are lowest among both sexes and all racial/ethnic groups in U.S. higher education. African American and Latino males are also less successful than all females and their Asian and white male counterparts in graduating from the California State University (CSU) system.
To address these issues, the MSA utilizes a holistic approach to improving the academic and overall success of its members, or “brothers,” at CSUDH through a variety of programs and services. Members are required to attend monthly meetings, meet in small groups, and participate in various activities, such as professional development workshops, leadership conferences, and community service.
Taking a personal interest in their success and wellbeing, MSA staff and senior members help their brothers engage and feel valued on and off campus. An assessment of the MSA found 79.2 percent of its members have had “high quality” experiences in their engagement on campus. The importance of the MSA program among African American and Latino members, in particular, was found to be 93.7 percent, but the most telling value of MSA membership is the combined 90 percent retention and graduation rate among its members.
In 2017, CSUDH was awarded a $166,000 grant from the College Futures Foundation to improve bachelor degree completion for male students of color in the entire 23-campus CSU system. The grant has enabled CSUDH to lead the networking of the campuses to plan, organize, and convene forums to share “models of best practices” with the goal of creating programs similar to the MSA on the campuses.
School Outreach and Mentorship
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 14 percent of African American boys and 18 percent of Hispanic boys scored proficient or above on the fourth grade reading tests in 2013.
Much of the MSA’s community service focuses on helping boys on college preparation in some of the most challenging and underserved neighborhoods of Los Angeles County, including Compton, Carson, Torrance, South Los Angeles, and Long Beach. Members promote a “college-going” culture off campus as tutors and mentors in local schools within the communities of more than 150 teen-aged boys to help reverse the trend of poor academic achievement among young men of color.
Back on campus, each year the MSA Spring Summit convenes more than 700 boys from South Bay and Los Angeles schools for inspirational speakers, mentorship, workshops, and a college and resource fair. The first summit in 2010 was attended by 125 young men of color. With its mentor program and the summit, the MSA has engaged more than 15,000 middle and high school students over the past decade.