As the former director of NEED, one would think Herman Reid would make the perfect spokesperson for college recruiting. However, considering today’s economic climate and statistics showing unprecedented numbers of unemployed college graduates, Reid is asking students to think long and hard before enrolling in a four-year college.

NEED—Herman Reid leads a session on the role of parents and schools. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

At the “Reclaiming our Youth Through Community Connections IV: Focus on Boys and Young Men Symposium” Oct. 19, Reid served as the keynote speaker. In his address, titled “From Dialogue to Action-Developing Solutions for our Boys & Young Men,” he focused on the importance of education for Black youth, but also highlighted other forms of educational attainment outside of college.

“If you look at the data, only about 28 percent of the African-American males who enter college are college ready,” Reid said. “I really support college, if you know the career you’re going into and that a job is going to be there.”

During his 32 years with NEED, Reid saw more African-Americans enter college than ever before. Now he says more students should be looking into the benefits of career and technical education as a means of finding employment more quickly and without the burden of college loan debt.

“Here is the tsunami that’s coming. Now what’s beginning to happen is many of these people who are taking out loans are not going to be able to pay these loans back and they’re not going to be able to get a job,” Reid said. “I suspect soon that when they look at these colleges and that graduates are not able to pay their loans because they can’t get a job, theses colleges are going to be under scrutiny.”

In light of the high dropout rate for African-American boys, Reid, who is now the director of academic and economic development at Point Park University said it is important to show students the tangible benefits of education. For many of them, a liberal arts college education is not relatable and a career and technical program that makes them job-ready could be a better fit.

“You need to show them a connection between jobs and education,” Reid said. “Kids need to understand, this is why you need reading; this is why you need math. They don’t see the connection.”

Still, for those young Black men who have the ability and desire to thrive in a college setting, Reid said mentoring is key. He said many of these young men do not see African-American men reaching the professional positions they dream of attaining, and it’s important to present them with positive role models in the career fields they are pursuing.

“If we want to move forward to improve things for African-American males, each of us needs to take interest in a young person somewhere, and especially the young men,” Reid said. “What we need to understand is we need to help someone find their way.”

Among his other suggestions for solving the crisis of African-American boys and young men, Reid said it is important to examine the impact of cultural issues facing this segment of the population, specifically the drug culture. He suggested organizing a group of Black men to address these cultural issues in an effort to break the cycle of drugs and violence.

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