(Photo Credit: www. umich.edu)
(Photo Credit: www. umich.edu)

Chicago stand up for your city. Chicago is such a beautiful city. It includes skyscrapers, artistic Architecture and beautiful lakes, but often times Chicago youth do not get the opportunity to experience it because of circumstances and poor environments. Unfortunately, many black men don’t receive the needed guidance or mentoring to get them past experiencing gang infested streets and drug usage.

I had an awesome opportunity to interview, a group of young men that are looking to expand young men’s horizons and give them the key essentials to survive in the work field. The Urban Male Initiative program, started at Malcolm X College in 2012,  started out with a group of just 4 to 5 men and has grown throughout the years. Find out more through this interview with Program Director Marlon Haywood, Freshman Treasurer Timothy Rouse and former Treasurer Sophomore Justin Isaac:

What encouraged you to develop the Urban Male Initiative Program?

Marlon Haywood – Program Director

I signed in as a transition specialist at the West side Learning Center at Malcolm X College about 3 years ago. One thing that I was noticing was there was a lack of male students completing their courses or women surpassing the men in completing their GED courses. There were a lot of young men confused and trying to figure out what their next move would be. So, I went to talk to the Dean, Vice President and President to ask if I could start a male mentoring program. I received the green light and they commended me on starting the program. The idea was for the group to have weekly meetings and really prep young men for the real world. So, I gathered a small group of about four to five men and took them down to my old college Northern Illinois University. And, instantly I noticed a change in men because they were in a totally different environment. It was a change in their attitudes and personalities. The vice president heard how great things went and came to me to expand the program to the main Malcolm X College campus. Justin Isaac was one of the first gentlemen I asked to become a part of the program at the college.

How did you feel to be selected for the UMI program?

Justin Isaac – Former Treasurer

At, first I was a little skeptical of it. Because, I’ve heard of previous programs that were similar, but weren’t successful. But, as I started to really understand the program I really got involved in it. I was happy and proud to be a part of this program and I’m still am.

Tell me your experiences in growing up in Chicago or being a part of the Chicago culture?

Marlon Haywood

I grew up in Englewood on 62nd and Loomis, so for me the positivity came mostly from the women in the family. My mom had all sisters. Now, my father was in my life, but when I looked at the individuals who went to college I really didn’t see that with the men in my life. I wanted to take my experiences and implement a program that encouraged men to survive in a professional environment. I wanted young men to know how to dress more professionally and to interview well.

Timothy Rouse- Treasurer

Well, I’m originally from Macon, Georgia and being from Georgia there’s not really much to do there for a young guy, so trouble was easy to get into to.  I would say I lived in the hood, but I didn’t grow up in the hood. I experienced a lot of things outside of the hood, because my mom wanted to make sure I had more experience than the other young boys in the neighborhood. I really didn’t get into trouble until I got older, because I was curious. I wanted to learn and experience things on my own.  I’ve seen boys at 13 get shot in front of me. Or some of my closest friends getting sent to jail over stupid stuff.  It took a while for me to find myself. But, now I’m in Chicago and learned from my mistakes. I wouldn’t know where I would be if I didn’t get it together. I want to be the person I know I am and being in this group is helping me become that.  I knew Marlon from class in the Urban Male Success course that was taught. They keep me busy and encourage others that were in the same position I was in.

The Urban Male Success course that Program Director Marlon Haywood teaches, encourages men to stay in school and give the the key essentials needed to be successful in the professional field.  They’ve started to recruit men outside of the class, and extended it to men that are just interested in becoming a part of UMI. Each semester they have new men sign up. 

What else do you think needs to happen to help encourage other Chicago youth?

Marlon Haywood

I think it goes back to popular culture. Music plays a big part of influencing people.  Youth do not see the doctors or lawyers being portrayed, all they see is the drug dealers and gang bangers thriving. So they never really get the opportunity to relate to what real success looks like. So, I think it’s the positive role models that can make a difference. So, if we have those positive role models that go into these neighborhoods and teach the youth something they’ve never seen or experienced before, it’s a way to break the cycle.

Timothy Rouse

I feel it really goes to being open and willing to change and experience new things. Once, you get out of your environment, you’ll start finding other things you can do that are positive.

Justin Isaac

I believe black men in their early 20’s need more people to relate to us. Like, to have other men that have been through the same struggles. It’s not a lot of people to relate to us, so we don’t see the change. But, it was good to see Marlon grow up in the same neighborhoods that I’m from and say that ‘hey I went to college’. Marlon, introduce me to a lot of positive people and its really inspired me to stay in school.

What makes UMI different from other mentorship programs?

Marlon Haywood

I think that we have so many men who have graduated and are still coming back to help the community at Malcolm X College. So, when we have men from Southern Illinois University and Northern Illinois University or other colleges decide to participate in helping the current students to transfer into four year institutions, it looks good to see that.  They were really able to be mentored and we also did community service.  We just want to help other men be successful.

(Photo Credit: Malcolm X College)
(Photo Credit: Malcolm X College)

“The work that the Urban Male Initiative is doing is critically important,” says Dr. Anthony E. Munroe, president of Malcolm X College. “We are offering these young men the skills and support needed to help move them forward on the educational pathway toward completion. Additionally, we are strongly committed to their success in our health sciences programs because this can lead to meaningful careers in the high-demand healthcare industry.”

In closing, the UMI group would like for the program to expand not only at Malcolm X College but also in the whole Chicago area, and it becomes the Urban Male Network. This new movement is to find out how males can be serviced by other males in the Chicago area. They’ve already begun meeting on the weekends and hope to really inspire others to join such an influential movement. 


For more information about City Colleges of Chicago go to www.ccc.edu.

~ dana williams


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