AAMI Awarded $15K from USG, Emphasized Mid-Semester Momentum

GSC African-American Male Initiative
GSC African-American Male Initiative

BY: KATHERYNE A. FIELDS, Gordon State College Director of Marketing

For the third consecutive year, Gordon State College’s African-American Male Initiative (AAMI) program has received full funding from the University System of Georgia (USG). AAMI hosted a mid-semester meeting in person and virtually themed Keep Grinding, Building Momentum to Sharpen Our EDGE.

The USG awarded $15,000 to GSC in sponsored funds for the AAMI project, as the award letter stated, “To collaboratively carry out the mission and singular focus to develop the stellar scholars of today into the extraordinary leader of tomorrow.” 

At Wednesday’s meeting, AAMI members introduced speakers, including Director of AAMI for the USG Wanda Gross, GSC alumnus and former AAMI member Michael Ransby, GSC President Kirk A. Nooks, former Griffin mayor and city councilman Rodney McCord, GSC Foundation Trustee and Lamar County business and civic leader Andy Bush, GSC Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs C. Jeffery Knighton, GSC Vice President for Academic Excellence Peter Higgins and Ryran Traylor, director of the AAMI program at GSC.  

Gross boasted about GSC’s example established a model for other programs within the University System of Georgia. Ransby stressed time management, followed by Nooks who inspired the young men to “burn up and not burn out.”

“Leave something better and brighter than you found it,” Nooks said. “This world needs you to leave a legacy.” 

McCord told the crowd, “I’m proud of you for grinding, putting a foot into the stereotypes of what black men can be.”

Bush, who served as the keynote speaker, told AAMI members he could relate as he was once a student at then Gordon Junior College before transitioning to Fort Valley State College. “Surround yourself with positive people,” Bush said. “If you do what is easy, life will be hard. Stay focused and structured.”

Knighton and Higgins applauded the students for their academic success and investment in study halls offered through AAMI and encouraged them to finish the semester strong. “The D represents Dedicated Scholars in the Highlander EDGE, and you gentlemen are sharpening your EDGE. The Highlander EDGE is what Gordon State College graduates have over other college graduates. Their experiences at Gordon set them apart. They are Engaged Innovators, Dedicated Scholars, Gifted Communicators and Ethical Leaders.” 

Traylor said, “The members of AAMI have risen to a challenge placed by Dr. Nooks a couple years ago. He challenged them to get involved in other programs on campus. AAMI helps to encourage them to realize that their voice matters.”

Currently more than 60 percent of the AAMI members now participate in clubs such as Honors Society, SGA, including one as president, class representative, special task forces recommended committee members, Residence Life Community Assistant, Toastmasters, one as president and one as secretary, Gordon Orientation Leaders and more.  

“They have infiltrated the entire campus,” Traylor said. “On average AAMI’s overall attendance and performances in and out of the classroom has been nothing short of stellar. Their GPAs and retention rates continue to be in the highest percentages. We held several Zoom Recruiting events prior to returning to campus. We have participated in the campus club and organizational fairs as well as our initial meeting in the Village Courtyard. We have been conducting our weekly with social distancing requirements.”  

In a previous meeting, Greg Campbell of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., a civic community partner in McDonough presented AAMI member Shakur Britten with a $1,000 scholarship. Britten, a junior majoring in business administration, said AAMI helped him visualize opportunities he never believed were within his reach.

“I came from a single-parent household in Pennsylvania, and my mother moved us to Atlanta to get me away from the crowd and my reckless living,” Britten stated. “When I graduated from Mt. Zion High School, my GPA was low and I couldn’t get into Gordon.

“I passed the Compass Test to get in and had to take support classes before I could take other classes. I found AAMI and I can say I found a brotherhood of leaders and mentors who hold me accountable. I’ve made the dean’s list, earned my associate’s degree and am back for my bachelor’s.”  

AAMI’s mission is to provide an Integrated Program Model of academic and social tools that support students adopting a positive mindset to successfully complete classes, elevate their cumulative GPAs, matriculate through each academic level and graduate. AAMI’s mission blends with the USG’s commitment to the Momentum Approach. The Integrated Program Model includes academic skills enrichment, student support services, adult and peer mentoring plus leadership development.