January 2021

100 Males to College: Bound for Greatness

By Leticia Boyles, Ed.D., and Anne Dillard
Participants in a 100 Males to College workshop
Low-income males and males of color face gender and racial gaps in academic readiness and college participation. Worrying college enrollment trends, shown in National Clearinghouse data, indicate a decline in minority males’ college going and college completion. Equity is integral to college and career access and higher education is critical in promoting social and economic mobility and evolving democratic citizenry (Brookings Institute). A postsecondary credential is vital to addressing equity in the workplace (College Board – Education Pays 2019). Data also shows attainment and achievement gaps for first-generation students of color, especially young men. In our community, our call to action as school counselors was to change this trajectory. To make a positive impact on these underrepresented populations, school counselors have been engaged in the Springfield Public Schools (SPS) 100 Males to College program to increase entry and completion of postsecondary education to help meet Massachusetts’ growing need for a diverse, educated and skilled citizenry.

In spring 2015, SPS was the first district in the commonwealth to launch 100 Males to College with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. The program is a multi-sector collaboration with higher education institutions, high schools, and district and community leaders. Using data to target the most at-promise (rather than “at-risk”) and underrepresented male students across the district, the program begins with 10th and 11th graders, supporting the cohort through high school and to college or career. The program provides college and career exposure and internal school supports through a positive youth development model that embraces culture and identity. Program highlights include:
  • designated success coach at the high school
  • connections with college students and college staff
  • courageous conversations about male identity and culture
  • career and college planning support
  • financial literacy and FAFSA assistance
  • college and/or university campus experiences, including an overnight stay
  • free dual enrollment courses
  • community service

Students tour an HBCU campus. 

Students participate in experiential activities that are multidisciplinary, developmental and relevant. These experiences emphasize the importance of rigor (doing well academically), relevance (connections between academic planning, career aspirations and why college is important), and relationships (understanding the importance of relationships with teachers, school counselors, parents and peers to assist with college aspirations). This program explores and identifies multidisciplinary ways to help the young men understand what it takes to enroll in college, persist in college and complete college.

The Springfield Public Schools Model

SPS’s 100 Males to College program continues to provide young men in our community with access and opportunities to develop competence, confidence, connection, character and compassion to increase outcomes through service, opportunity and supports (see www.edmentoring.org). As of May 2019, 510 students have participated in this program with SPS. Out of the class of 2019 cohort, 100 percent graduated, 20 percent enrolled in dual enrollment, 80 percent enrolled in college, 16 percent chose career pathways, two percent enrolled in CTE programs and two percent enlisted in the military. Although these young men did not all choose the same path, the connections they have made with each other will be long lasting.

Program participants march in the local Puerto Rican Day parade.

This school-base model allows SPS’s 100 Males to College program to utilize intentional resources within the district to provide additional support to students (such as Springfield Promise Program, Summer Melt and Reach Higher). We develop individualized postsecondary success plans for each student. Each high school’s recruitment process begins at the end of 10th grade with a short presentation and interest meeting, and interest levels are high enough to typically require a waiting list. Students express wanting to be a part of this brotherhood and describe the contributions they will bring to the program. Each high school has approximately 20 participants, and students are actively engaged during their junior and senior year. Across the district, more than 100 students participate in the program each year. At each school, success coach teams include at least one school counselor and one or two teachers. The success coaches conduct frequent check-ins with participants and hold and monthly school-based meetings.

Affirming Our Why

The 100 Males to College program provides opportunities for these young men to celebrate and uplift each other. Moreover, the knowledge and beliefs they gain around identity and development of positive masculinity increases their ability to model and produce behaviors that build communities and strengthen families. A series of student engagement activities over a two-year span leads to the culminating Annual Bow Tie Ceremony (photo below). To witness the multiple opportunities for these young men to love and support each other is memorable. Throughout the duration of the program and beyond, these young men have the opportunity to build strong friendships and lasting relationships, utilize personalized success plans, redefine masculinity and increase participation in dual enrollment. They have provided the exemplar for expanded programs in Brockton, Salem, Framingham and Worcester districts. Not to be left behind, three young women in our district, Damahya Mongroo, Briyanna Henry and Mahoro Shimiro, asked, “What about us?” This led to the creation of the similar SPS College Bound Girls group.

Leticia Boyles, Ed.D., and Anne Dillard are Springfield Public Schools school counseling department chairs, success coaches for 100 Males to College/College Bound Girls, and adjunct professors at Springfield College. Both have received the Harold Grinspoon Teacher of Excellence Award. Dr. Boyles is also the “effective educator coach” for new school counselors in the district and is based at the High School of Science and Technology in Springfield, Mass. She is the associate editor-in-chief of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Advances in Research in Education. Mrs. Dillard is based at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, also in Springfield.