This past summer, five other students and I were privileged to attend the Fourth Annual Men of Excellence Conference on the University of Northern Iowa campus in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The conference targets young men from pre-college and collegiate programs. Our students worked with TRIO and higher education access professionals on personal development and college planning, as well as life skill enhancement. Workshops and small groups centered on the acronym of being REAL (Responsible Educated Authentic Leader). Our students benefited greatly from the conference in an array of ways on how to be REAL.
Students also gained insight from being paired with upperclassman students of color or with faculty or staff members from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Positive staff interactions in breakout sessions built rapport and commonality among students, establishing relationships and trust throughout the conference. As a result, our Upward Bound students were able to receive wisdom, mentorship, and instruction. The conference also provided structured student development, or focused mentoring that primarily emphasized socialization and interpersonal bonding. Our students were able to laugh, empathize, learn, play sports, and network with other TRIO students from all around the country.
The 2018 Men of Excellence Conference strongly impacted the Upward Bound students who attended, producing a close community of friends for years to come.