The following was originally published by Newswise.

Male students of color can now embark on their college careers at the University of Vermont and be supported in their professional trajectories through Young Men of Talent (YMT), a new CFES Brilliant Pathways program designed to reverse the decline in college enrollment among Black and Latino males.

The pilot YMT program provides mentoring, networking, internships, and other supports to males of color to encourage them to enroll in college and graduate — a model that CFES believes can change the equation at a time when upper-middle-class White males are three times more likely to attain college degrees than Black and Latino men.

“Our vision extends way beyond Burlington. We plan to bring YMT to high schools and colleges across the country,” said Rick Dalton, president and CEO of CFES, an Essex, N.Y.-based non-profit that has helped 100,000 low-income youth attain college degrees.

YMT aims to ensure that Black and Latino males nationwide access and graduate from college prepared to enter the workforce. The pilot will initially support 100 Black and Latino males from high school through graduation at the University of Vermont. The first group of 20 YMT scholars entered UVM in August 2023, and the next two cohorts of 40 YMT scholars each will enter UVM in 2024 and 2025. YMT scholars will be selected from CFES partner schools and other schools across the country.

YMT arranges paid internships in the students’ fields of interest, academic and 24/7 mentoring support, and the opportunity to share meals with UVM leaders. “Mentors provide guidance to help our students graduate and launch them on career paths,” explained Tara Smith, chief operating officer of CFES.

The decline in male college enrollment is a new and disturbing trend. Fifty years ago, males made up 56% of college students. By 2019, a 14-point gender gap in college going had opened, this time with women dominating student populations. Not only are women more likely to enroll in college, they are more likely to graduate. The pandemic exacerbated the trend: While female enrollment dipped 0.7% in 2020, male enrollment declined 5.1%.

Black and Latino males are disproportionately represented in this decline. From 2019-21, Black male enrollment dropped 15%, while Latino male enrollment declined by 10%.

“Mentoring and networking are all the more critical because young men are seeing fewer of their peers continuing their education,” Dalton said. “YMT gives them the support and confidence they need not just to enroll in college, but to thrive once they get there.”

The program is partnering with companies that can expose young men to careers they might not have otherwise considered. According to Dalton, YMT has drawn interest from businesses in Vermont and beyond that want to diversify their workforces. “They recognize the value YMT can provide to their DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) plans,” he said.

Companies and individuals interested in providing internships and mentoring are encouraged to contact CFES at (info@brilliantpathways.org). For more information visit brilliantpathways.org/young-men/.

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Located in Essex, NY, CFES Brilliant Pathways is a global leader in helping K-12 underserved students from rural and urban communities become college and career ready, giving students an opportunity to forge their own route to a bright future. You can learn more at https://brilliantpathways.org/.