Brother 2 Brother and Sister Circle may serve different groups of students who live on campus, but they share the same goal: to retain students of color.
Sister Circle aims to build community for women of color on campus, while Brother 2 Brother focuses on men of color. Aaron Batiste, cofacilitator of Brother 2 Brother and Evergreen Hall community director, said recent university updates show how the organization’s goals make a difference.
“We just got some information … from the Anti-Racism Task Force update ... It says ‘By providing social and financial support, [as] predicted and observed, one-year retention rates for Black male students on campus has improved,’” Batiste said.
Brother 2 Brother meets weekly and holds workshops. They recently partnered with an organization called Backpack to Briefcase, which provides career development resources.
“Backpack to Briefcase is, pretty much, an organization that helps men of color and women of color with three important aspects that every college student should know, and that is professional development, resume building and interview skills,” Batiste said.
Helping young men of color learn these skills can give them a leg up and keep them coming back, therefore aiding in retention efforts, Batiste said.
Sister Circle meets biweekly as a safe place for members to be themselves and speak about their problems without any judgment. Sister Circle member R’Eyanna Moore, a freshman planning to major in psychology from Belleville, Illinois, said she feels safe whenever she attends meetings.
“With Sister Circle, I feel very safe and comfortable around these women that are willing to listen to anything you’re going through at the moment,” Moore said.
By providing these spaces for the women of color in University Housing, the members of this organization are able to get the social aspect needed to help improve the retention rate of women of color. Kiya Rainey, a freshman physiology major from St. Louis and a member of Sister Circle, said she is able to socialize in a safe place.
“As a woman of color, it’s important to me and for us to have our community and have a safe space where we can just talk and socialize and get to know each other,” Rainey said.
These organizations go about meeting their goals in different ways, since men and women of color have different obstacles to overcome. For example, Domonique Crosby, the facilitator for Sister Circle and Cougar Village assistant director for residence life, said while Sister Circle discusses topics such as hair care, Brother 2 Brother may discuss interactions with law enforcement.
“When I think of barriers for our men of color, rather… particularly with housing, I think about interactions they may have with the police…,” Crosby said. “So that might mean a conversation on how to navigate that.”
The two organizations are built differently as well. Sister Circle is based on a mentor/mentee system. Brother 2 Brother is meeting-based, where members attend check-ins and do workshops. Chris Wooten, a senior mass communications major from Normal, Illinois, is a member of Brother 2 Brother. Wooten said he believes if not for the pandemic, Brother 2 Brother could have grown into a larger group.
“It started at the worst possible time it could’ve, because no one was ready for what happened [the pandemic],” Wooten said. “I probably would have heard about Brother 2 Brother in a more prominent role as opposed to having it be now when no one wants to go anywhere.”
Batiste said he believes that as students excel, they should be sure to share the success with others.
“One of the main things that I do is always live by the notion of ‘Each one teach one’ … so although these young men may rise up and go on to do great things, I often tell them that one of the greatest things that they can do at that particular time is to bring somebody along that ride,” Batiste said.