Male mentoring program sparks responsibility, leadership
During Simba Machamire’s first semester as a freshman at Central Michigan University, he found himself engaged in the same self-destructive behavior many students fall prey to.
Away from his parents, the Berrien Springs sophomore was finally free to do what he wanted — free to be lazy or party or play video games all night.
Then, he started struggling with academics. Still, Machamire didn’t see the connection between his actions and his falling grades.
That was before he joined Men About Change, a mentoring program for young men started by Multicultural Academic Student Services in 2007.
The organization's meetings, held at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Kulhavi 146, cover a wide variety of issues, from financial responsibility to toxic masculinity.
Facilitator Cyrus Stewart, a graduate student from Seattle, leads the room of 55-60 men each week. The program is grounded in group discussion and the idea that peers have the ability to use their own experiences to help each other learn and grow.
Sometimes, that growth can come from realizing a harsh reality, like it did with Machamire when former Men About Change facilitator D’Wayne Jenkins helped him realize why he was struggling academically.
“He said, ‘Everyone has the same amount of time in a week — 168 hours. What you do with that time shows what you find important in your life,'" Machamire said. "It sparked something in my head."
The change in Machamire couldn’t be clearer. His grades improved and he’s even become a residential assistant in Fabiano.
It's not just members who benefit from the program, however. Stewart has seen himself grow as facilitator he has improved his leadership skills.
“I’ve learned the true power of mentorship and accountability,” Stewart said. “I’ve learned the importance of consistency in leadership and integrity in leadership.”
Although Stewart is only in Kulhavi 146 once a week, he knows Men About Change members could see him slip at any time — and he said credibility can be lost in a quarter of the time it takes to build.
“I have to make sure I am always encompassing the person I want them to be every time they see me,” Stewart said. “I can’t let them see me doing things I don’t want them to do. I can’t let them see me folding in times of challenge.”
Members of the organization have a word that helps bolster them when they find themselves amidst life's challenges: “brotherhood.”
For Flint freshman Calvin Price, the brotherhood helps create a space where he can be around people who share his skin color and know what it’s like being a black man in America.
“(My favorite part is) the bond of men who look like myself,” Price said.
While the group is organized by Multicultural Academic Student Services and is heavily comprised of black students, members emphasize it is a welcoming space for any man seeking to improve himself.
“It’s not a race thing,” Price said. “It’s a human thing.”
Ultimately, Price said Men About Change is about building up male leaders for the future. That’s precisely why “change” is in the name.
“The 'change' (in the name says) we are trying to change the culture of CMU’s campus and change the narrative for our males,” Stewart said.
While women on campus are doing an “impeccable” job as leaders, male students are not filling up e-boards or pursuing leadership the way female students are, he said.
“We need to step up as men,” Stewart added.
For now, Machamire is continuing to do his part to exemplify the responsibility and leadership skills he’s learned in the organization.
“Every time I walk out of that room, I just feel fired up to be great,” Machamire said. “Man, I just walk out of there with fire in my heart, fire in my chest, fire in my brain. (Stewart and I) had a conversation about success, and he said I can succeed — so I’m gonna do it.’”