Fitted for Success: Men of Color, Honor and Ambition program begins

New leadership program intends to increase academic retention rates and professional opportunities for young men of color

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The first co-hort of MOCHA, Men of Color, Honor and Ambition, met this weekend to kick off the new personal, academic and leadership program founded by Kevin McDonald, (lower right) associate vice president for diversity and inclusion.

Note: Kevin McDonald and several members of MOCHA will be guests on WXXI-AM’s 1370 Connection 1-2 p.m. today taking questions about the program at 585-263-9994.

Twelve young men at Rochester Institute of Technology were measured for suits—and success—this past weekend as part of the new Men of Color, Honor and Ambition program, referred to as MOCHA.

The undergraduates are part of a new initiative intended to positively impact academic success, increase retention and develop successful leaders. They participated in a kick-off meeting this past Sunday; met campus, community organizations and businessmen who will serve as mentors; and began a yearlong leadership experience.

The program is intended to address the low graduation rates among students of color. More than half don’t graduate from U.S. colleges and universities, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, the national college graduation rate for African American men is just over 33.1 percent, for Latino men it is 41 percent and for Native Americans and Alaska natives the rate is 33.8 percent, compared to the graduation rate for white males at 54.5 percent.

As part of the event, the young men will participate in monthly workshops on business, public speaking, health and interpersonal relationships, for example, social outings and community service projects.

One of the highlights of the program was a suit-fitting, provided by program partner Adrian Jules Custom Clothiers Ltd. for the young men, says Kevin McDonald, associate vice president for diversity and inclusion, and the program founder.

“This initiative will provide each male participant with supportive pillars around every turn of their personal, academic and professional experiences, but it will also equip them with attire that will instill an additional level of confidence and preparation as they network and interview with people and organizations near and far,” McDonald says.

“Most importantly however, this initiative will connect the students in meaningful ways with the wonderful Rochester community and some of the amazing community organizations that comprise it.”

Campus partners include RIT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Department of Communications, part of RIT’s College of Liberal Arts. Community partners include IBERO Action League, Action for a Better Community, Adrian Jules, the American Heart Association, Dale Carnegie of Rochester, along with consultation from the Mocha Center of Rochester, Hillside Work Scholarship Connection and Wegmans.