The program, Georgia Highlands African-American Male and Minority Excellence, or GHAME, began in 2008 with only seven students on the Floyd campus. The program now extends to all GHC sites, serving 110 members.
Jon Hershey, dean of the Humanities Division and program coordinator, previously explained the program, saying the school adopted GHAME and members can join their campus' chapter of Brother 2 Brother, a national organization dedicated to improving the retention and graduation rates of African-American and Latino male students.
Members must sign a contract stating they will, for example, participate in GHAME activities and meet with advisors to discuss academic progress. Recent community ventures of the program include a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County, participating in a local Habitat for Humanity project and assisting with college functions.
"We initially started with a focus solely on African-American men, but we expanded to include Latino men because their numbers are also low," Hershey said in July 2011. "The response has been really good. We still have a long way to go, but our recruiting numbers have improved significantly, and the numbers that have really surprised us has been retention numbers."
The USG began an initiative in 2003 to improve the enrollment, retention and graduation rates of this population, whose college success lagged behind other student cohorts. Each institution has created its own program to address the issue.
According to a press release from GHC, "From fall 2010 to fall 2011, retention for all African-American male students was 49 percent. For Latino males it was 58 percent. For GHAME members of these two groups, the numbers increase to 79 percent and 87 percent, respectively. The retention rate for all students at GHC was 47 percent. However, among GHAME members, 79 percent returned to GHC last fall. Graduation rates were also strong among these two populations: 36 percent for GHAME members versus 10 percent for the overall student population.
"Enrollment growth among black and Latino males has also spiked. Among African-American men, it increased by 36 percent in fall 2011 over the previous fall; Latino male enrollment increased by 29 percent. GHC's enrollment as a whole increased by 5 percent over the previous year."
Hershey said that eight institutions received grants for their programs, but only GHC, along with Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and Georgia College and State University, were the only three receiving the highest award amount.