Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Introduces Harlem High School Students to Top Black Colleges

Posted on March 8, 2019 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Successful Role Models Mentor Teens

Escorted by Omega Psi Phi fraternity members along with sorority members of other African American Greek-letter organizations, 55 high school juniors and seniors tumbled into buses parked outside Catholic Charities NY’s Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Center in Harlem in the early morning of February 16th to tour historically black colleges and universities.  Sixteen colleges, six states and seven days later the teens completed the loop, reentering the Kennedy Center with a new understanding of opportunities awaiting them and their ability to grab them.   

Omega Psi Phi frat members kicked off its annual Omega Black College Tours 30 years ago to close the gap between black and white student college enrollment, long considered a key to success.  Thanks to programs like this, the gap has begun to close, reports the National Center for Education Statistics, with 42 percent and 36 percent white and black enrollments respectively.  However, the gap between female and male enrollment remains widest for black students, 62 vs. 38 percent.  Moreover, the disparity between white and black graduation rates remains significant; 62 vs. 38-percent reports the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. 

“The community needs to be able to see men, in particular black men, who are college educated, many with graduate and advanced degrees,” says Deacon Rodney Beckford who directs Catholic Charities NY’s Kennedy Center and formed the partnership with Omega Psi Phi’s Omega Black College Tour seven years ago.  “Working one-on-one with these successful role models shows kids what they can do and how far they can go.”

The number of successful role models from Omega Psi Phi, the first international and predominately Black frat to be created on the campus of a historically Black college or university, Howard University in Washington DC, are legion. They include leaders in nearly every field from politics to sports including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, basketball star Michael Jordan, poet Langston Hughes and band leader William “Count” Bassie.

The idea behind the Omega Black College Tour traces back to the fraternity’s key principles, “manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift.”  While the tour is also open to girls, the remaining key principles, particularly that of uplifting the next generation is what the tour is all about.

Rodney Beckford

The February 22nd return to Kennedy Center marked the students’ last stop not only on the bus tour but also of eight preparatory Saturday workshops held at Kennedy center.  When the fraternity began offering its Omega Black College Tours its workshops had been held in cramped church basements limiting the number of students and parents who could participate.  Omega Psi Phi began partnering with Catholic Charities NY seven years ago when Kennedy Center Director Rodney Beckford offered them center’s 400-person auditorium free of charge.

“I belonged to a similar type of fraternity, the Order of the Feather,  when I was in high school,” Deacon Beckford said, explaining why he began Catholic Charities NY’s partnership with the fraternity.  “At first, I thought they would mentor me for six months but in reality, the connections I made mentored me through life.  It made all the difference for me.”

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