by Aaron Mudd - Bowling Green Daily News

After being involved with the Young Male Leadership Academy since the eighth grade, Adrien Pocasongra describes it as one of the best things he’s ever done.

“It gives me a sense of belonging,” said Pocasongra, now a junior at Warren Central High School.

Michael Coleman, a minority teacher recruiter at Warren County Public Schools, has been involved with the program for 10 years.

“The Young Male Leadership Academy prepares high school males to become college and career ready, builds leadership skills and encourages male students to consider teaching as a career,” he said, adding that 16 young men are participating.

Established in 2007, the program was made possible by a grant from the Kentucky Department of Education. Coleman said the program targets young men, especially young men of color.

Denise Hardesty, coordinator of Western Kentucky University’s Minority Teacher Recruitment Center, added that young men need role models.

“Studies have shown that males can increase performance when they have role models who look like them as teachers,” she said.

The program accomplishes its goals in several ways. It organizes a summer camp held in June on WKU’s Bowling Green campus.

“It focuses on teacher education, leadership skills and college preparation,” Coleman said.

Each day of the six-day camp centers on different themes, such as leadership skills and college and career readiness, he said.

The program also features six Saturday sessions during the school year and takes participants on summer trips, Coleman said. The last one took participants to Washington, D.C., Coleman said. The program is planning a trip to Boston this summer to attend a leadership conference.

Pocasongra learned about the academy after representatives visited area schools around town and asked for teacher referrals to the program.

“I just thought to myself this ‘sounds like a great idea,’” he said.

Pocasongra attended the summer camp before starting his freshman year in high school. He’s toured several colleges with the group of young men including a trip to Howard University in Washington.

“I think that’s been a huge thing for many of these young men,” Hardesty said about visiting other college campuses.

Michael Nwanguma, another participant and a junior at South Warren High School, appreciated what the program has done to help him prepare for college.

“It’s helped me so much on how to get more scholarships and how to look better to a college,” he said.

Nwanguma said he’s been in the program for two or three years, and said he’s gotten a lot of opportunities and information he wouldn’t have otherwise.

“It really made us get close and feel like a family,” he said.