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Identity & Community

Week-Long Institute Focuses on Leadership Skills for Young Pittsburgh Black Men

On Sunday, 75 black high school students, mostly from the Pittsburgh area, began intensive training sessions to become community leaders.

The young men are taking part in the 7th annual Black Male Leadership Development Institute now through June 23 at Robert Morris University in partnership with the Urban League of Pittsburgh.  

Rex Crawley is assistant dean of the university's School of Communication and Information Systems and co-director of the institute. He said the students are spending the week residing on campus while participating in workshops and activities designed to instill good communication, leadership and management skills.

Crawley said one of the highlighted sessions is “Intercultural Competence as a Tool for Academic Success."

“Our premise is that development of leadership skills has a direct and indirect impact on academics,” Crawley said. “Obviously, intercultural development and understanding globalism is critical to our future leaders.”

Crawley said they want the students to understand the importance of having a “healthy sense of self.”

“Recognizing that the culture, the American culture is changing dramatically, we’re convinced that understanding yourself and understanding the value of what you as (an) African American male bring to the table is critical,” he said.

Crawley said in developing the curriculum they took core leadership principles and applied cultural implications.

“We tried to think of ways we could make this curriculum culturally sensitive for the experiences of African American males," he said. "So it’s been powerful in that we were able to take some more Euro-centric concepts and apply a more Afro-centric approach to teaching and understanding for the young men.”

Crawley said there is a difference in teaching leadership skills to a young white male versus a young black male. 

“When we give stories and accounts and examples that they are all based on experiences that African American young guys can connect to,” he said.

According to Crawley, after the week-long experience, the students will meet one Saturday every month to reinforce the leadership principles. Next May they will officially graduate from the leadership development program.