by Alana J. Mauger
On Nov. 17, students in the Minority Male Mentoring Program section of Strategies for College Success (SCS 101) had the opportunity to interact with Dr. Sulayman Clark, author of The Rains: Voices for American Liberty. Their instructor, Interim Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Leonard Bass, assigned the book as a group-read text for the class.
After teaching the course, Dr. Bass found that many of his students spent very little time reading outside of class.
“Last semester, students in the class expressed their desire for more relevant reading material – something they could identify and connect with,” he explained. “The Rains is a local story that takes place in Philadelphia, and it helps the students connect with and understand how the issues faced by early African Americans in the country impact them today.”
Furthermore, Dr. Bass notes that the novel’s pedagogical worth is clearly aligned with the College’s general education core values of developing students who are culturally and socially responsible and responsive citizens.
While The Rains is a work of fiction, Dr. Clark uses real people and historical events to tell the story of the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad in antebellum Philadelphia.
“African American history is about more than who did what, when,” he shared with the class. “The real message is about perseverance, and an unrelenting quest for a greater America and humanity.”
Dr. Clark encouraged the students to read at least two hours everyday, calling reading “the passport for the future.”
“Your ancestors made a commitment to self-improvement. You need to aspire to higher levels of literacy…to learn new things in order to grow. I challenge you as individuals – What can you do to make changes for the better?” he asked.
SCS 101 is a two-credit course that provides an introduction to academic success strategies, including an orientation to college life, self-assessment and goal setting, study skills and time management, familiarization with college resources, and appreciation of cultural diversity.
In only its second semester, Dr. Bass believes that having a designated section for freshmen Minority Male Mentoring Program participants is beneficial to their academic success. Future plans include the possibility of tying SCS 101 into an African American history course and developing other academically oriented support services for defined cohorts of at-risk students.