Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a two-part series about successful programs expanding in The City University of New York community college system.
A LaGuardia Community College program that provides education and teaches parenting skills to young fathers ages 18 to 24 is doubling in size and expanding to two other City University of New York (CUNY) community colleges, and program coordinator Raheem Brooks says the expansion will help serve hundreds more New York City families.
The CUNY Fatherhood Academy began serving young fathers in 2012. Though funding ran out last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio this year has budgeted $1.1 million — double the previous amount — to continue the program at LaGuardia, while another $1 million allocated through the city’s Young Men’s Initiative will allow the program to expand to Hostos Community College, in the Bronx, and Kingsborough Community College, in Brooklyn.
“Historically speaking, there have been many programs dedicated to helping young mothers, but there haven’t been many programs focused on young fathers,” Brooks says, pointing to a correlation between youth and societal problems and the absence of a father in many children’s lives. “Our goal is to help strengthen families by promoting responsible fatherhood and economic stability through education, employment and personal development.”
How the model program works
The program helps young fathers attain their high school equivalency (HSE) diploma and prepare for college. “We also provide work experience through employment and internships, and we offer workshops on parenting, child development, financial literacy, developing healthy relationships, communication and conflict resolution,” Brooks says.
The program meets for five hours a day, three days a week. It lasts for 16 weeks and is available to young fathers free of charge. Participants also receive a free metro card to get them to and from campus.
The additional funding will enable the program to add a family engagement specialist, who will help the participating fathers’ family members.
“We noticed that some of the guys were bringing in the mothers of their children, or other family members, to use services at the school, which is great,” he explains. “We wanted to have something in place to assist these mothers and other family members — and now we’ll be able to do that.”
Why the program is a success
Since 2012, the program has attracted 178 students, 136 of whom have completed the academy. Sixty-one students have earned their HSE diplomas, and 80 students have obtained employment. What’s more, 21 participants have gone on to enroll in college.
This college enrollment is an added benefit, but the program’s real impact can be felt in the lives and the families of participants, Brooks says.
“What’s happening is a trickle effect: Guys are becoming empowered here, and they go back to their community and they’re bringing this information with them,” he says. “The point of it all is to make sure the children are in a better place and avoid some of the horrible statistics that are connected to poverty and the lack of male stability in the household.”
One key to the program’s success has been the use of mentors, who serve as positive role models for participants.
“We hire young men as mentors after they’ve been through the program themselves,” Brooks says. “We didn’t start with that right away, but providing positive examples is important. The brotherhood that develops is amazing.”
“We have these great statistics now,” Brooks says. “But five or 10 years from now, how are those children doing? Are they graduating at higher rates? Going on to college? Doing the things they want to do in life? I think that’s the big picture, and I’m curious to see how that looks down the line.”
Read yesterday’s post on the expanding CUNY ASAP program here.