Western Courier

BMAN supports students

Kirsten Edmunds

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The director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center, Carl Simien, thought of a mission coming into Western Illinois University last year; to help create leadership and success within the community.

A small group of students who were frequents in the Cultural Center also wanted to help implement Simien’s mission. That is when the Black Male Achievement Network (BMAN) evolved.

The group started in the spring semester of 2016 but was not yet defined. Simien said they had the vision for BMAN, but wanted to get people on board first.

“It was a process of building relationships with young men who had an interest in wanting to see their peers be successful,” Simien said. “Men wanting to see an increased focus on academic achievement amongst students and also for young men who are looking for an outlet.”

The group meets once a week to discuss black male achievement and leadership. They also have an academic monitoring system, where Simien goes through each of the men’s grades and talks about them individually. They will soon have events with team- and community-building activities as well.

Simien also hopes to bring in guest speakers who will talk about their individual success and accomplishments as a black male in today’s society. He was a first-generation college student and understands what it feels like to be an African American male in unfamiliar territory.

“Young men of color come into college not completely convinced they can be successful,” Simien said. “We are trying to build this community of young men that are focused on not only success for themselves individually but seeing that they have an opportunity and the skills to help somebody get on that path if they aren’t already.”

He hopes the group will be a support system and backbone to others if they need it.

“The idea is that BMAN will help to create a culture of community, brotherhood, achievement and professionalism for black male students at WIU,” Simien said. “We want to build a network of young men focused on maximizing opportunities for success. Their individual academic achievement as well as the academic achievement of their
black male peers.”

Alongside Simien, Sean Mathis, a computer science major, also understands the struggle but wants his peers to look for the men in BMAN for help.

“I want the men in the group to feel as if what they are a part of is a brotherhood,” Mathis said. “I want them to feel as if they are a part of a diverse group that is accepting towards all people. I want them to set an example of what great leaders look like.”

Mathis was one of the founders of BMAN and hopes the community and campus will give them the support and acceptance they need to carry out their mission.

“I want the community and campus to know that BMAN is a group that aims to serve to the best of our ability,” Mathis said. “I want them to know that we are proud to be here at WIU, and we are here to better ourselves as well as our campus and community.”

The BMAN group focuses on black male achievement, but Simien said they welcome all students, no matter their race.

“It’s an umbrella for students who want to support building a culture of achievement, professionalism and brotherhood community,” Simien said. “Especially within the African American male population, but it also has something to offer
for all students.”

Simien has only been at Western for a year but loves what he is doing, and loves the fact he gets to encourage students.

“I enjoy being able to be a support system for students,” Simien said. “I’m very adamant about providing opportunities and doing programs and events to make all students successful.”

BMAN is still a work in progress, but Simien said they would be advertising and putting their name out there very soon. In the meantime, if you would like to know more about this group, you can contact Carl Simien at cj-simien@wiu.edu, call the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center at (309)298-2220 or come to their meetings on Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center.

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BMAN supports students