Georgia Highlands creates a brotherhood with GHAME

Randy Pierce, president of Georgia Highlands College, Tommy Hopkins, Board of Regents, and Satin Cochran, human services major at the school, talk during a lunch on Tuesday. (Ryan Smith, RN-T.com)

Neiro Lightbourne had dreams of going to college, but when he applied to attend a four-year university he was denied.

“I guess my grades weren’t good enough and I wasn’t in a lot of clubs,” he said.

That’s when Lightbourne heard about Georgia Highlands College.

“I feel like Georgia Highlands chose me,” Lightbourne said.

The Georgia Highlands sophomore is one of about 46 students who are participating in a program called Brother 2 Brother, a chapter of the Student African-American Brotherhood. He says B2B inspires him to be a better student, encourages him to work harder and supports him in his dreams.

B2B is part of Georgia Highlands’ African-American Minority Male Excellence program, or GHAME.

Members of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents were at Rome’s Georgia Highlands campus Tuesday to hear a GHAME progress report.

Georgia Highlands College will be hosting members of the Board of Regents again today as many of the members get their first looks at the college’s Carters­ville campus.

GHAME is led by English professor Jon Hershey and is funded through grant money from the University System of Georgia’s African-American Male Initiative.

Dana Davis, director of college relations, said the program was started in 2008 in response to regents’ concerns that minority student enrollment numbers were low and retention rates were even lower.

Hershey notes that the program has grown from seven students to 46. To be involved in GHAME and B2B, students must sign a contract stating they will attend class, spend four hours a week studying at the tutoring center or library, and agree to be a peer mentor after their second year at GHC.

“The thing that makes the program so successful is that these guys have made it into a family,” Hershey said.

Anthony Donaldson, a sophomore at GHC, said GHAME has given him opportunities he otherwise would have missed.

“This really is a brotherhood. I have learned so much from my fellow members. I have learned to be a leader. I have done things with this group I never did before like go to plays and museums,” Donaldson said.

Board of Regents member Larry Ellis said the program appeared to be successful, and he hopes to see similar programs implemented across the board and not just to minorities.

“If it works here it should work everywhere else,” Ellis said. “Why can’t we use this across the board and not just with Africans? All students could benefit from this.”