Do You Know…Ronald “Kwesi” Harris?

by Andrea Watson, Contributor

Black male students at Chicago State University erase the negative stereotypes by excelling in school with the assistance of the university’s African American Male Resource Center.

Ronald “Kwesi” Harris, the center’s program director and a proud product of Chicago Public Schools, said he’s used his own life experiences to pass down to the students.

After studying child development and social work at Central State University in Ohio, Harris’ upbringing and natural urge to help people has given him the necessary tools to provide guidance to the males that use the AAMRC.

The free resource center, which mostly deals with freshmen, focuses on three main components: recruitment, retention and graduation. While it’s a male resource center, it’s open to all.

It provides a computer lab with free printing, tutors, mentors and professional development and leadership training. It generally sees between 60 to 80 students each month, Harris said.

“I’m leading a program that’s working with restoring the presence of male students back on campus, particularly African American males,” he told the Defender.

In 2009, Black males were less likely than White males to enroll in a 2-year or four-year college after high school graduation. Three out of 10 Black males enrolled in a four year institution compared with four out of 10 white males, according to the Council of the Great City Schools.

Statistics like these are improving, but Black men are still lagging behind White men, Harris said.

“We try to create this matrix of a safe place, a place where they can draw energy from, and a place where they can explore possibilities,” Harris said.

While most students are drawn to the center through referrals from faculty and the old-fashioned word-of-mouth, Harris strongly believes that those who want help will come on their own--without the push.

“I challenge the young people I work with; be life long learners. Thirst for knowledge but understand knowledge is not power--information is power,” he said.

One way he measures the success is when he sees high numbers of their students working or volunteering throughout campus.

Harris credits his strong family foundation and their high standards for valuing education and relationships for the compassionate and well-rounded person he is today.

“I think I benefited from a strong immediate and extended family. That was my community,” he said.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender