Troy Dixon on Unique Challenges and Positive Outcomes: Mentoring Young Men of Color

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In America, African Americans have the highest poverty rate at 27.4 percent, followed closely by Hispanics, who have a 26.6 percent poverty rate. Research has shown that poverty is a major threat to a child’s well-being. Children who grow up in poverty from a young age face economic and educational disadvantages and are therefore less likely to receive a high school diploma, making it harder to obtain a job. These children not only face challenges economically, but they are also affected by social and cultural misconceptions. Mentoring boys and young men of color is vital to making changes in a community and creating opportunities they never knew were available to them. The following are unique challenges that these individuals face and ways to change these struggles into positive, life-changing opportunities.

Absence of a father figure

More than 10 million Black and Hispanic children in the U.S. live in a home without a father. Often referred to as the “Father Factor,” statistics point to the idea that growing up without a father figure can lead to a life of poverty, crime, and substance abuse. Negative outcomes do not have to be consistent with fatherless homes and statistics do not have to dictate the future of young men’s lives. The presence and positive engagement of parents and other caring adults such as relatives, teachers, pastors, and coaches, will make the greatest difference for young men living without a father.

Stressing the importance of an adult role model in a young man’s life is crucial. An ideal role model embodies certain traits that young men want to emulate, inspiring them to make changes in their own lives. Modeling behaviors of confidence, respect, hard work, and moral values will help to set a good foundation for future endeavors. Young men that are looking to apply for jobs or college in the future will need references and having solid role models that know their character and can attest to it will be extremely beneficial. Clubs, after school programs or athletics at school or youth groups at church are great ways to get involved and develop positive, lasting, and life-changing relationships.

Negative stereotypes

Young men of color are continually stereotyped as having one, or a combination of the following attributes: threatening, dangerous, drug-involved, disrespectful, withdrawn, or unmotivated. Such stereotypes stem from the media, movies, and TV shows that portray African Americans and Hispanics involved in gangs, violence, and substance abuse. For a lot of viewers, such perceptions are all they have to go off of. These misconceptions are not only harmful to their image but also inhibit opportunities that would have otherwise been available. For this reason, it is crucial to foster an accurate, positive perception about young men of color and to change harmful stereotypes.

Encouraging these individuals to embrace their true identities and showcase their talents is a great way to achieve this. For example, individuals who love to write or create lyrics can join writing clubs and enter writing competitions. Those who like to sing can get involved in choirs at school or church or can form their own group. These young men can’t do it on their own though. Since the outside world has developed, and held on to negative stereotypes, communities need to work together to change that. By skipping judgement and focusing on getting to know young men, communities might realize that they have a great deal of untapped potential.Mentors can get the ball rolling by connecting these young men to clubs in the area and encourage communities to start groups.

College Graduation is Inconceivable

Over the years, major improvements have been made for the success of high school students. From 1990 to 2014, the status high school dropout rates of 16- to 24-year-olds has gone down significantly. This rate declined from 13.2 percent to 7.4 percent for black youth and from 32.4 percent to 10.6 percent for Hispanic youth. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics saw the highest number of college enrollment for black high school graduates since it first started tracking data. A whopping 70.9 percent enrolled in college that year as compared to 67.3 percent white enrollees. While these numbers show great progress for young men of color, they still face many hurdles.

The financial aspect of attending college is a major burden that the majority of college students face. Not knowing or understanding financial aid and scholarship options can prevent students from making it to graduation. Another major hurdle is time. It isn’t uncommon for college students to work a full-time job while in college to make ends meet. A full-time or even a part-time course load can require a lot of time and dedication in order to achieve good grades. Maintaining a job and an education at the same time can feel next to impossible. When weighing the options, a full-time job that provides an income now is more appealing than an education that does not provide instant gratification.

Many of these hurdles can be solved with sufficient planning. Young minorities need to have better access to college planning opportunities so that they are made aware of success strategies. A thorough review of scholarships could mean thousands of tuition dollars saved. Decoding the intricacies of financial aid for these young men could mean a world of difference for their future. Institutional leaders can also play a crucial role for minorities by being mindful of their progress and show support and guidance in their journey.

Connecting young men of color with positive outcomes can be incredibly life-changing not only for the mentor, but also for the mentee. Involving communities and encouraging participation help to show a level of commitment that was missing before.

To view the original blog, visit: http://troydixon.org/2017/01/31/troy-dixon-unique-challenges-positive-outcomes-mentoring-young-men-of-color/


To learn more, connect with Troy Dixon on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/troy-dixon

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Troy Dixon on Sports As a Way to Get Exposure Around Social Classes

troy-dixonAs a former college football player, I’ve found that lessons learned on the playing field transfer very easily to the boardroom. The decisiveness and focus required to be successful at sports have paved the way for my success in business.  Athletics has helped me build discipline, teamwork, and communication.

After all, on the playing field, only one thing matters: can you do what you need to do in order to win? Can you score the touchdown, kick a goal, outrun your competitors, or knock down your opponent? Lost in the buzz of adrenaline and the thrill of victory (or the lessons of defeat), are things like socioeconomic status or personal wealth. In its place is an arena where, to paraphrase a former mentor, you are judged by “the content of your character,” and not by the color of your skin.

The inner city and how sports can lead to positive change

troy-dixon-inner-city-and-sports-blogSports is a meritocracy, perhaps one of the last few left in our society today. But what about those who don’t have the opportunity to build character on the basketball court or the soccer field? What about the less fortunate youths, who miss learning valuable lessons because they don’t have access to organized sports? Today, a child who lives in an urban, low-income community is four times less likely to play sports than someone living in a more affluent community down the road. Not only are such youths deprived of development and learning opportunities, they don’t have sports as a positive outlet, thus making them more likely to join gangs, carry weapons, and get into fights in school.

Given its positive effects, it’s unconscionable to deny urban youth the opportunity to play sports. In the United Kingdom, forward-thinking authorities have funded sports infrastructure in inner-cities, recognizing the constructive impact that such activities can have on the lives of children. By providing children a positive outlet for frustrations, a safe environment, and a place for personal development, the government is helping alleviate some of the pressure on low-income youth, and creating a safer, brighter environment for tomorrow.

Further, sports have a host of hidden benefits for growing minds, usually in the form of “soft skills,” those vitally important (yet less glamorous) abilities that can help children thrive in new and unfamiliar situations. From honing decision-making skills (players must make quick, split-second judgments) to communicating briefly, fairly, and effectively.  It’s not always easy to sense the positive impacts of sports–even if one can easily see a clear before-and-after picture.

Sports can help overcome prejudice and injustice

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Sports also has the ability to bridge racial, cultural, and socioeconomic gaps. In Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, award-winning sociologist Dr. Michael Kimmel relays one such anecdote: One night, coming home from a game, his son chimes in during a loud, rowdy conversation amongst a group of excited young African American boys. Kimmel’s son weighs in with the name of his own favorite basketball player, sparking a lively, friendly dialogue and putting the rest of the passengers on the subway at ease.

If such a fleeting instance can bring two totally different groups closer, how much more can a coordinated effort, like organized sports, accomplish? On the macro level, sports has been a powerful weapon against the racist injustices of our country, from the pure athletic prowess of Kenny Washington, one of the first black running backs, to Jackie Robinson’s unforgettable Major League debut.

Even on a smaller level, such as that of individuals, groups, and communities, sports can smash stereotypes and foster friendships across demographics. In a case study on Remember the Titans by psychologist Dr. Wind Goodfriend, organized sports can help players see each other as individuals, provided it is done correctly. Dr. Goodfriend lists several key factors, including a level playing field where promotions are based solely on merit, a unified mindset (our team versus another team, not black versus white), and the existence of a supportive authority who is dedicated to integration and positive change.

It’s true that examples like Jackie Robinson or Coach Herman Boone of Remember the Titans aren’t, by themselves, enough to overturn systematic discrimination and inequality–nor can the act of playing sports, in and of itself.

But they can help build leadership and other soft skills amongst the underprivileged, prepare our children for the challenges of tomorrow, and most importantly, foster empathy–a trait that is increasingly lost in our society of social media bubbles and fake news. In that light, sports can be as critical to future success as any core class.

In the end, one thing is clear to me: without sports, I would not be where I am today.

To learn more, connect with Troy Dixon on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/troy-dixon 

Troy Dixon Discusses Importance of Internships (in and out of finance)

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College is a busy time. Between lectures, homework, extracurricular involvement, and sports, students may at times feel overwhelmed and struggle with managing all the pieces of their lives. But while lectures and coursework must remain a top priority, students should consider reprioritizing their other activities and responsibilities to include at least one internship during their college career.

Now more than ever, internships are a critical enhancement to the core college curriculum. Internships allow students to gain on-the-job knowledge, skills, and experience. Moreover, they also help students make connections with industry leaders. For these reasons, 95 percent of employers surveyed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) indicated that a prospective hire’s work experience is a substantial factor in hiring decisions. Almost half of the employers surveyed expressed desire for new-graduate experience to be developed by internships or co-op programs.

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“Internships have become key in today’s economy,” noted Melissa Benca, career services director at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. “Graduating students with paid or unpaid internships on their résumé have a much better chance at landing a full-time position upon graduation. Students are doing internships as undergraduates, and it is now not unusual for recent grads to take an unpaid internship with hopes of turning it into a permanent position or at least making some contacts and building their résumé.”

In addition to providing relevant experience that candidates can transfer anywhere, internships can help students secure entry-level jobs at the company they interned for. An increasing number of employers hire entry-level candidates who have gone through the employers’ internship programs.According to Marilyn Macke, NACE’s executive direct, “Not only does participation in an internship make the student a more attractive candidate but it can also be an avenue to a job.” On NACE’s 2008 Experiential Education Survey, nearly 36 percent of entry-level college graduates that were hired from the class of 2007 came from employers’ own internship programs, up from 30 percent in 2005. On NACE’s 2012 Internship & Co-op survey, that number rose to 40 percent.

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For best results, students should seek out paid internships. NACE’s 2012 Student Survey reported that nearly 60 percent of 2012 college graduates who completed a paid internship received at least one full-time job offer after graduation. Alternatively, only 37 percent of unpaid interns received job offers.

An effective way to secure a paid internship is to take an unpaid internship first. A student in his or her early college career will not have much experience, so a local unpaid internship is a great way to gain some. That experience then makes the student more attractive to recruiters hiring for paid internships.

Another key approach is to network with family, friends, professors, alumni, and industry leaders. Reaching out to a contact in a company for which one wants to intern can help build a relationship that can lead to an internship hire, especially if that contact is an alumnus or alumna of your university.

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If you are unable to secure a paid internship, an unpaid internship still offers bright future economic prospects. As early as 2005, NACE reported that entry-level candidates who had internship or co-op experience received a higher starting salary than those candidates who did not participate in any internships or co-ops. Because unpaid internship may be easier to secure, students should focus their efforts on one or two unpaid programs that will best help them acquire the skills necessary in their chosen field.

Finally, in addition to the long-term economic benefits of internship experience, interning also helps foster personal growth by reinforcing lessons taught in the classroom and helping students understand whether they are on the right career path. An internship that relates to a student’s major will help the student learn how to apply abstract classroom lessons to solve real world problems. These applications also help students learn whether they truly like the careers they have chosen. Given that most internships last only a semester or a summer, students who discover that they do not like the specific application of their field can experiment with a related one. For instance, a marketing major may discover that she does not like marketing when she completes a marketing internship, but a subsequent internship in public relations, a related application of marketing principles, may lead her to enjoyment and success. Alternatively, after going through an internship he does not enjoy, a student may choose a different field altogether.

To read the original blog, visit TroyDixon.org/importance-of-internships-in-and-out-of-finance


To learn more, connect with Troy Dixon on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/troy-dixon