GCC Hosts Conversation on the Black Male Experience

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A candid discussion about life experiences of men of color and strategies to overcome challenges and build successful careers took place on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at Gateway Community College (GCC). 


This IS Us:  Career Conversations about the Black Male Experience offered insight to students about how to tackle adversity and get ahead. The event started with a panel discussion with men who have built careers in fields such as education, healthcare, law enforcement, and business and was followed by roundtable discussions.


Most of the participants in the panel either grew up in New Haven or work in New Haven.  Leigh Roberts, Student Engagement and Career Development Associate at GCC, said that the panel was developed to represent men in the community who have successful careers at places students are familiar with, such as Yale University, Yale-New Haven Hospital, and the Connecticut State Police.  The panelists have been engaged in the community, some have dual careers, and their stories have the ability to inspire young people, Roberts said. 


Students were advised by panelists to learn about black history, be persistent and proactive, and to not only educate themselves but also to question their education.  They were also encouraged to learn how to navigate around circumstances and take advantage of opportunities. 


Panelist Joel Pullen, a social worker, said that life changed drastically after he was in a motorcycle accident at age 18, suffered serious facial injuries and lost two fingers.  He said that despite his disappointment with how the injuries changed his life, he managed to stay focused, be true to himself, and not be a follower.  Pullen added that he was fortunate to have friends who wanted the best for him and noted that it helps if your purpose becomes more than what others think of you.


According to the National Center for Education Statistics, black and Hispanic men have lower graduation rates at two-year institutions than other males examined. Roberts noted that it is important for students to see and hear from those who have overcome obstacles and achieved success.  This panel discussion will be the first in what she plans as a series focusing on different topics.  In March, a similar format will be used for a discussion about careers for women. 


“I decided to begin a series like this because I wanted to introduce our students to accomplished professionals in a variety of industries that may have had similar experiences or challenges that our students face,” Roberts said.  “I also wanted our students to see people that may look like them or people that they know pursuing traditional, non-traditional and, in some cases, unexpected career paths so they know they can do it as well.”