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Project MALES Marks Ten-Year Milestone

By Jessica Sinn

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This fall, Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success) is celebrating 10 years of research and programmatic success at The University of Texas at Austin.

Established in fall 2010, Project MALES includes three initiatives with national, state and local impact: a research institute that disseminates emerging research on males of color in education, the Texas Education Consortium for Males Students of Color, and a student mentoring program embedded within local school districts. All of the interrelated initiatives work toward helping the state of Texas reach its goals outlined in the 60x30TX plan, which calls for 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34 to hold a certificate or degree by 2030.

“Over the last decade we have been privileged to work alongside many committed local, state, and national partners in improving educational outcomes and opportunities for boys and young men of color,” said Victor Sáenz, Project MALES co-founder and executive director.

Sáenz extends his gratitude to the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement for hosting the program’s initiatives from the very beginning, and to the many institutional partners who are investing their efforts toward bridging their research to practice. He is also grateful for the unique partnership they have with Texas A&M University, led by Luis Ponjuán, associate professor and Project MALES co-founder, and his research team.

“The next ten years are certain to bring even more meaningful opportunities to collaborate and move the needle for male student success in the state of Texas and beyond,” said Sáenz, who is a professor and department chair of educational leadership and policy in the College of Education.

Project MALES has played a key role in helping the university earn national recognition for its commitment to Latinx students. Most recently, UT Austin received the 2020 Seal of Excelencia from Excelencia in Education, the nation’s authority in efforts related to Latinx student success. Among the program’s many accolades, Project MALES was recognized as a finalist for the 2019 Examples of Excelencia award from Excelencia in Education for supporting Latinx undergraduates and increasing their graduation rates at UT Austin.

Emmet Campos, director of Project MALES and the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color, said their intergenerational model of mentoring has positively impacted both UT Austin undergraduate and graduate mentors and K-12 students from the Greater Austin area—many of whom have graduated from UT Austin and other top-ranking universities.

“Our mentoring initiative is one of three initiatives alongside the Texas Education Consortium, and the Research Institute that collectively help us realize our vision to advance equitable educational outcomes for male students of color at the local, state and national level,” said Campos, who is also a lecturer in the College of Education.

Ponjuán said the Texas A&M research team is honored to play an important role in improving opportunities for male students of color across the state.

“Our fruitful partnership with UT Austin and the Project MALES team demonstrates how we have leveraged the flagship status of both our institutions to advance an educational imperative for the state of Texas,” said Ponjuán, who is also the co-founder of the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color.

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Over the years, Project MALES has expanded its many offerings including:

  • Hosting an annual Texas Male Student Leadership Summit, attracting more than 500 students, educators and administrators from across the state for two days of personal and professional development at UT Austin
  • Hosting an annual Summer Leadership Academy, bringing more than 50 Austin-area middle and high school students to the UT Austin campus for a week of mentoring and leadership-building
  • One-on-one near-peer mentorship sessions with Austin-area middle and high school students and UT Austin students, serving over 350 young men in 2019-20
  • Frequent dissemination of research and policy briefs focused on successful outcomes for males of color across the educational spectrum
  • Monthly Zoom webinars, attracting more than 300 attendees and 1,300 viewers per event

During the pandemic, Project MALES has taken its annual events and newly created monthly webinars to virtual platforms, expanding many of its offerings to other educational stakeholders and the general public across the country. Go to their website for more information about upcoming events, including a Zoom webinar titled “Using Critical Mentoring and Collaborative Partnerships to Support BYMOC in Texas” on Friday, Oct. 23 at 12:30 p.m. Register on this website.