City Colleges hold graduation ceremonies

May 12, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been pushing a number of programs to improve the schools and today he was the commencement speaker.

Full of excitement and promise, nearly 3,300 City Colleges of Chicago graduates donned a cap and gown to celebrate commencement day. That is twice the number of associates degrees handed out by the colleges just ten years ago.

"I want the future employers who are coming here to see the community colleges as part of their workforce," Emanuel said.

But despite the city colleges success, anyone paying close attention to those getting their diplomas on stage Saturday, would notice a significant gender gap. Olive Harvey College for example, graduated nearly three times the number of women than men.

"Minority males oftentimes don't see education as the way up and the way out," said Craig Follins of Olive Harvey College. "Oftentimes, they will find a job, get into trouble. If you look across the country, particularly as it relates to minority men, you'll find a lot more in prison, getting in trouble, not engaged in education and not seeing education as a ticket out."

To help correct that gap Olive Harvey College launched a pilot mentoring program last fall aimed specifically at retaining minority men. Thirty-four-year-old veteran Robert Flores is one of the first graduates who benefited from the program.

"It keeps you going. I had a rough semester at the very existence of the program, but they allowed me to bounce back. I had a great mentor," Flores said.

For the mentors it's been a rewarding experience as well.

"The rewarding for me was seeing people's grade point averages go up, and for me as well. I went from 2.8 to 3.8 and got some offers , scholarships, will continue to pursue my education," said mentor Thadeus LaBranch.

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