Middle school-age boys aren’t known for their emotional candor. Boys of color, even less so. So when Enrique Aguayo asks a group of eighth graders if they are nervous about entering high school, he gets only a couple of nods, and one acknowledgment. “I’m worried about not passing,” admits Hipolito, a student at Consuelo Mendez Middle School. “I can handle basic math, but algebra — uh-uh.” “You think you got it bad. I got geometry,” Alberto chimes in. The boys are more comfortable dissing Enrique, a graduate student in college administration at the University of Texas at Austin. “Your layups are trash,” one boy says. “You work out with calculators,” says another.
Welcome to Project MALES, a mentoring program at Austin that is part of a small but growing effort to get more Latino males into and through college. The program, which pairs undergraduates with middle- and high-school students and graduate students with undergrads, has sent more than 50 mentors into Austin public schools this year. Over pizza and pickup basketball, the student mentors offer lessons in leadership and college preparation.
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