SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (STCC) – While he was a high school student, Miguel Maria took dual enrollment courses at Springfield Technical Community College.

“I credit STCC for opening the doors of higher education for me,” said Maria, who went on to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Westfield State University.

This fall, he returned to STCC as the director of Male Initiative for Leadership and Education (MILE).

In his new role, Maria hopes to open doors for male students and promote student success by providing mentoring, academic support and community engagement opportunities. The MILE program consists of one-on-one and group mentoring, skill-building workshops, community service, tutoring sessions, and advising.

This fall, STCC has made a significant investment to expand MILE. In addition to hiring a new director, STCC has dedicated space for the MILE office, now in the Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons, Room 268, and plans to hire two full-time academic and transfer counselors to serve MILE participants.

One of STCC’s many academic support services, MILE, is designed to support all male students but focuses on Black and Latino men. Research shows that these two groups access higher education and graduate at disproportionately lower rates than men from other ethnic or racial backgrounds and their female counterparts.

For more information about the MILE program, contact Miguel Maria at mamaria2101@stcc.edu, or visit stcc.edu/resources/leadership-mentoring/mile.

“According to recent research, access, retention and completion rates have declined for this group of men during the COVID pandemic,” Maria said. “STCC realized the problem and worked strategically to correct this issue which is happening nationwide.”

MILE aims to provide support programming and resources to positively impact this group of students.

Maria plans to build a closely-knit cohort of men this academic year.

“MILE shall be a place where students can seek the services necessary to attain academic, personal and professional success. Providing a space like the MILE office where students can create a brotherhood and a community and feel engaged in their higher education will help them inside and out of the classroom.” Maria said. “I want to create a space where Black and Latino students feel welcome and not only utilize the space to seek academic support but can come in here and relax and have a safe space on campus.”

Darcey Kemp, Vice President of Student Affairs at STCC, said she’s thrilled to have Maria in the role as director of MILE.

“Miguel is passionate about creating an environment where students feel supported. He is committed to providing mentoring and guidance so that students can achieve both their academic and personal goals,’” Kemp said. “Miguel knows the value of mentoring and that support services like those provided by MILE make a meaningful difference in the lives of our students.”

Maria was the first in his family to go to college and remembers how support services helped him achieve his goals.

“I’m so passionate about student support programs because I’m a product of student support programs,” he said. “For me personally, I think some of the most important mentors that I had not only helped me navigate the college completion process but also modeled behavior for me .”

Maria moved to Springfield from New York at an early age with his family. His mother was from Puerto Rico, and father from Dominican Republic. He went through the Springfield Public School system.

At Westfield State, he earned his bachelor’s degree with a dual major in economics and political science. He went on to receive his master’s in public administration, concentrating in public management. He is currently completing his Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed. D.).

Before joining STCC, he worked as a Financial Aid Counselor at Westfield State University, and, before that, a Project Coordinator for the 100 Males to College Program. In that role, he worked in partnership with Springfield Public Schools, STCC, Westfield State and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to promote college access.

“While working for student support services, that’s where I figured out higher education is where I wanted to be,” Maria said. “I liked working with students and supporting students who are in situations similar to mine, who look like me and who had the same barriers that I had. That was my passion and the work I wanted to do. I’m proud to be here at STCC helping students to navigate college and complete their education.”