IMPACT Stories

Featured IMPACT Story

Sharing the stories of Saint Xavier University students, alumni, faculty/staff and friends.

The Story of the STRONG Program

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention have identified homicide as the leading cause of death for African-American males between the ages of 10 and 24. Here in Chicago, we’ve heard one tragic story after another--senseless violence, unfathomable grief and lost potential.

Lack of access to education is a predominant risk factor associated with gun violence. Saint Xavier University is diminishing the power of that risk through its deep and longstanding commitment to diversity and by enrolling Chicago youths most at risk. 

One of the University’s newest programs in support of this commitment is Successful Teaching Related to Overcoming Negative Generalities (STRONG). Dr. Michael Clark, associate professor of political science, chair of the Department of History and Political Science and STRONG program director, said the program was created to improve enrollment, retention and graduate rates among African-American males. 

This University-wide effort will bring together the offices of Academic Affairs, Records and Registration, Advising, Financial Aid, Student Life and Career Planning and Placement, as well as the Learning Center, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graham School of Management, the School of Education and the School of Nursing in an effort to create an environment and academic experience that meets African-American males’ needs.

Now in a pilot phase, 15 second-semester freshman students will benefit from the additional support of a network of African-American faculty and staff members who will provide advice, guidance and mentorship. Furthermore, STRONG students will have an opportunity to attend monthly skills workshops focused on topics like study skills, information literacy and time management. Other topics to be covered at the workshops will be related to emotional health and financial literacy. 

Another important element in the program is peer support. In fact, Dr. Clark and Dr. John Jackson, an adjunct professor at Lindenwood University, identified peer support as one of three essential external factors for success in a study they conducted entitled “African American Males’ Opinions on Factors that Contributed to College Completion.” To that end, the STRONG program will incorporate activities that allow participating students to build connections and foster reassuring relationships.

Looking ahead, Dr. Clark hopes to work with a cohort of 15 STRONG students each year. Following their graduation, the University will offer one-year of post-graduate support to help those students extend their success in the post-graduate realm. Students will work with faculty and staff mentors to develop post-graduate career goals and action plans, with a monthly check-in system to monitor and revise action plans. The program will also include experiences to prepare participants for interviewing for jobs, professional culture or other post-graduate experiences. Dr. Clark anticipates recent graduates will become advocates and future mentors for the STRONG program.

In the near future, Dr. Clark foresees expanding STRONG programming to offer summer and Saturday enrichment experiences for high school students that will prepare them for the challenges of both university level study and the university application process.

The STRONG program will allow Saint Xavier University to contribute to the dialogue concerning one of the most unrelenting national problems. It could even yield a model around which other universities and colleges could structure their efforts to address this issue. This not only allows SXU to make substantive contributions to the common good, but the project helps the University fulfill its mission, which makes the STRONG program both highly relevant and significant to Saint Xavier.

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