STEPHENVILLE (May 13, 2015) — MENtal Freedom, a mentoring program sponsored by Tarleton State University’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion, has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Texas Pioneer Foundation to support programming and foster the development of traditionally under-represented male students, including African-American and Latino men.
The Texas Pioneer Foundation, a private, independent foundation based in San Marcos, provides funding to support access and success in post-secondary education. The grant will aid MENtal Freedom during the upcoming academic year, beginning this summer.
Founded in September 2012 by a group of Tarleton faculty advisers Dr. Reggie Hall, coordinator of mentoring programs, and Dr. Lora Helvie-Mason, director of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, MENtal Freedom promotes leadership, networking, dialogue, instruction and real-world situations.
MENtal Freedom assists in developing interpersonal skills, academics and professionalism through programming that establishes and encourages inclusiveness, community and legacy. The organization’s mission and approach supports the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans and Hispanics, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s accelerated plan for Closing the Gaps Item, “Participation of Hispanic Students and African-American Male Students.”
The Texas Pioneer Foundation grant will aid in facilitating weekly mentoring sessions for MENtal Freedom’s membership, as well as monthly campus outreach workshops for students to provide mentoring to their peers at central Texas and Dallas-Fort Worth area high schools in an effort to promote a college-bound mindset among minority secondary students, said Dr. Jennifer Edwards, assistant vice president for student success and multicultural initiatives.
“MENtal Freedom men will continue to sponsor weekly face-to-face lunch meetings to enable participants to share experiences—both supports and barriers—from the prior week and to help participants focus their efforts on their academic endeavors,” Edwards explained. “The men will be asked to write in a weekly journal, dialogue in discussion groups, receive training to develop success skills, and explore concepts designed to foster success while creating a sense of community.”
In addition to on-campus leadership and interpersonal development, the grant will support other activities such as travel to the annual Diversity Leadership Conference hosted by Sam Houston State University and a leadership conference in Austin geared specifically for African-American and Latino men. Grant funding also has been earmarked to support study abroad activities for members of MENtal Freedom.
MENtal Freedom plans to implement a common reader, or book, for its membership to hold discussions throughout the semester, and to continue a tablet loaner program that was established last year.
“This generous grant provided by the Texas Pioneer Foundation will assist MENtal Freedom in meeting the demands of its growing membership and the number of young men wanting to join this program,” said Edwards. “We are very pleased to receive this funding as it will help the Tarleton mentoring programs tremendously.”
Currently, MENtal Freedom includes 32 members—all dedicated and passionate men, striving to improve themselves and each other, said Edwards. “MENtal Freedom is for male students, targeted to African-American or Latino students, but membership is open to any student.”
Edwards added the grant project’s goals are “to enable African-American and Hispanic males to persist towards graduation within a four-year timeframe” and to provide professional development for those students with experiences to “create, refine and expand their leadership, public speaking and mentoring skills within the community and beyond.” In addition, the project hopes to enable more African-American and Hispanic men to apply to graduate school and/or attain a professional position before graduating from Tarleton.
Tarleton, a member of The Texas A&M University System, provides a student-focused, value-driven educational experience marked by academic innovation and exemplary service, and dedicated to transforming students into tomorrow’s professional leaders. With campuses in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian and online, Tarleton engages with its communities to provide real-world learning experiences and to address societal needs while maintaining its core values of integrity, leadership, tradition, civility, excellence and service.