The Octon Community College has announced a free two-year certificate and degree program on its Scooky campus for an up-and-coming group of black, male-identified people working or residing in Octon Community College District 535.
The Emory Williams Academy for Black Men will open its doors next fall. Named after the former chair of the Board of Trustees of Octon, the longtime head of vocational programs at Evanston Township High School, the program welcomes a community of 25 first-year students.
Mario Borja, the academy’s accredited chair, stressed the need to recruit ETHS graduates exclusively at the Fifth Ward meeting on Thursday, saying there was a low enrollment in the Octane despite the size of the school.
“There are a lot of graduates who are full college ready and don’t come to Octon. They don’t go to school for four years, but they are not directly involved in the workforce, ”Borha said. “This is an opportunity for this group of students to really take advantage.”
To qualify, applicants must have a High School Diploma or GED. After gaining admission in Octane, applicants of any age can apply to the academy.
Cohort members can choose from eight disciplines: Computer Science, Engineering, Human Services, Accounting, Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice, Business, Marketing, and Cannabis Studies.
The academy is committed to ensuring that blacks succeed in the education and workforce arrangements, supporting them at every step, Borha said. Cohort members will be supported by a career and transfer coach and care coordinator.
All members take courses in African American History, Literature, Culture, and the Arts; Taught by an entirely black faculty. Students will receive a Certificate in Marketing and Digital Marketing and a degree in Associated Applied Science.
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said at the ward meeting that he supported the program, but questioned the need for those in the fall to be first-year college students, which Borha said is the basis on which each case can be re-evaluated. The academy helps students with financial and academic support to overcome the same barriers that prevented those leaving college from graduating, he said.
“They had the motivation, they wanted to be there, they signed up, but one of those obstacles … prevented them from completing the program,” Burns said.
Reuben Howard II, director of community engagement at Oakton, said the academy will be a “brotherhood of scholars” in line with the vision of the late Williams, as program staff look to build a community of students of all ages and stages.
Williams was previously head of vocational programs at Evanston Township High School and has nearly 40 years of experience in public education.
“He believed in education and how education can change lives, and he was a passionate advocate for access and opportunity,” Howard II said.
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