Viney says, “If you look at Kappas across the country, 100 percent attended college, 95 percent graduated. Factoring advanced degrees and income levels, we’re in the top 5 percent overall. When you have that profile of amazing men of color, you have to use that stature to be an example to the community.”
Accordingly, Viney has adopted “Our Kids, Our Responsibility” as the theme for Kappa’s Guide Right efforts. “To truly judge if we are making an impact, we as Kappa men have to influence the policies and programs and discussion about young men of color,” Viney explains. Guide Right’s focus will be about empowerment as opposed to prevention. Jersey City Alumni’s Bridge to Success program influenced Viney’s thinking about Guide Right. The program was developed in partnership with the New Jersey Board of Education to assist students whose needs were unmet by the existing system. “We worked with the young men and women, really giving them hands-on tools: goal-setting, community college research, financial aid assistance,” he says.
“We decided that young men of color needed an organization that was about providing information, access and opportunities for them to succeed.” Chartered only three years ago, Jersey City’s Kappa League program has more than tripled in size, from 20 Leaguers to more than 70 today.
“Young men of color are labeled ‘at risk’, which triggers the perception that someone needs to ‘save the day’; but you can’t tell a kid ‘You can go to Harvard’ without the tools, support and parental engagement,” Viney says.
Guide Right will provide those tools. “Grand Polemarch Bates’ Diamond in the Rough program is designed to guide Kappa Leaguers to more than $1,000,000 in scholarship awards. We will also pursue an aggressive SAT and ACT prep program to increase scores,” he continues.
Viney recognizes that there is a strong desire to “jump in and help,” but cautions on tackling more than a Chapter can truly handle. “You have to determine your focus based on your skill set and the resources you can provide,” he says. “Being a good role model is not enough. The more desperate the circumstance, the more developmental assets required. Can your chapter really run an effective Kappa League program exclusively with at-risk youth?”
Viney mentions that many high achieving students are left to their own devices, because of the perception that their need isn’t as great. He disagrees with that approach. “By believing that high achievers don’t need us, we render them invisible and take away a great narrative that could inspire a much broader pool of youth,” he offers.
Bottom line: Different youth require different support, but a wide range of students can be served in comprehensive Guide Right programs.
“Rho Alpha has a 50/50 stake in our Kappa League program,” Viney says, referring to the undergraduate chapter advised by Jersey City Alumni. “They run the tutoring program, participate in conference calls, host college tours… But they also have their own GR programming, including: freshman orientation and workforce preparation.”
Brainstorming at the Polemarch’s Summit provided important input for Guide Right on college campuses across the country. “Undergraduate brothers know their campuses better than us,” says Viney. “A strong guide right program makes a chapter relevant on campus and important to fellow students. What they offer to the campus and administration is something invaluable in the collegiate,” he continues.
Viney said he is thankful to all the brothers who lead the charge on Guide Right nationwide, especially past chairs Eugene Anderson and Larry McGee. “Carl Cunningham (of the Mobile Alumni Chapter) runs one of the best Kappa League programs in the country and I can’t think of anybody better to help lead Guide Right,” he says.
“We deal with real lives. Decisions we make trickle down to every young man’s life that we interact with. To have the Brothers put their faith and trust in me is an honor and humbling experience.”