Innovative Program to Uplift Young Men of All Colors
Men of Color Banquet & Rites of Passage Ceremony 2023
Held at Housatonic Community College
In October, 2022, John Ramos II, Assistant Principal at Bunnell High School recruited eighteen male students of color for a leadership conference sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Schools. The group, Men of Color Leadership Group (MCLG) tapped an unmet need for the students chosen to participate. While Bunnell’s enrollment of 1,100 is 65% Black and Brown, the staff, with only two Black male professionals, does not reflect the school’s diversity.
MCLG combines elements of group guidance, leadership training and community service. Over the course of the school year, Mr. Ramos has led them through discussions of Black and Brown history, appropriate use of social media, the importance of networking, and how to “brand” oneself and one’s associations.
Its mission statement, generated by its student membership, states that “As the Men of Color Leadership Group, we want to give back to the community, inspire our youth, and give men like us a voice.” In broad terms, MCLG promotes the social and emotional health of its male students of color, organizes them for volunteer opportunities, and develops their leadership capabilities.
They meet weekly, and their discussions are wide-ranging and revealing. Students are eager to volunteer their answers. They speak of the challenges they had to overcome in order to achieve the successes they had, how they had developed self-confidence, and how to deal with disrespect appropriately.
MCLG has the support of Principal Dr. Katie Graf and Superintendent Dr. Uyi Osunde, and at this point Bunnell is the only high school in the state to offer this new extracurricular group. Discussed at the Men of Color Banquet & Rites of Passage Ceremony 2023 was the willingness of supporters to work with Mr. Ramos to expand the MCLG in the state – with the first goal being Stratford High School.
“According to Ramos, high schools do not generally provide many avenues for students of color to discuss the unique challenges they face. Male students of color in particular, especially when they are working class or poor, face additional preconceptions and stereotypes. MCLG provides students a space in which to discuss their lived experiences and how to confront such prejudices.” Ramos is explicit about MCLG as a safe space in which students can be open because their confidences will be respected – no matter what color.
One of their most fervent supporters, whose generosity sponsored the banquet and rites of passage ceremony, was the Zeta Phi Lambda Charitable Foundation of Zeta Phi Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Based in Stamford, they typically award four $2,500 college scholarships each year to young men of color of African-American or Latino descent who are high school seniors residing and attending school in the Fairfield County area who desire to obtain a college education in the field of their choice.
“We want to increase our impact on the success of youth by increasing the number of scholarships. This year, we would like to make that as many as 20 scholarships or provide other assistance as we have in the way of college visit transportation via sponsored buses or laptop computers for college students in need. By increasing our current fundraising beyond the $10,000 that we raise every year with an additional $10,000 through Giving Day Donors, we will continue to uplift deserving and underserved youth in our communities.”
Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African-Americans, was founded at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York on December 4, 1906 by seven college men who recognized the need for a strong bond of Brotherhood among African descendants in this country. The fraternity originally served as a study and support group for African American students at Cornell, who faced racial prejudice, both educationally and socially. Today, Alpha Phi Alpha includes almost 800 college and alumni chapters located around the world. Service and advocacy have been central to the fraternity since its founding.
Also Honored for their support of the Men of Color were:
– Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
– Buried Soles – Sneaker Store
– Stratford Rotary Club
– Connecticut Association of Schools
– Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Association
– Janice Cupee – Stratford School Board Member
– Chris Koch – Assistant Principal at Bunnell
– Shawn Hardison – Assistant Football Coach and Restorative Tutor at BHS