(This article originally appeared in the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Office of Programs, Policy and Legislative Initiatives Newsletter – March 1, 2017 Vol. 1, Issue 2)
MANHOOD, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift … These are the Four Cardinal Principles of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Third District Mentoring Program. The Omega Academy, here in the District of Columbia, is a model for how non-profit organizations can work with public schools and private organizations in local or urban communities to build bridges of opportunity for African-American boys and young men and all youth across the nation to combat poverty, low graduation rates, the performance gap and unemployment.
During the confirmation hearings for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Dr. Ben Carson spoke on the importance of education, training and jobs as the keys to addressing poverty, dependence and fair housing issues. In his testimony, Dr. Carson suggested how, “Federal government agencies should collaborate on these is-sues in a pragmatic and measured fashion with state and local governments and private sector organizations.” He added that, “education, a work ethic and letting local government, the private sector and families in creating an environment in local communities that supports the creation of ladders of opportunity, without a Washing-ton ‘one-size fits all mandate’ to look for problems.”
Major Galloway, Director of the Alpha Omega Chapters’ Omega Academy (OA) and a program analyst for the Office of Policy, Programs and Legislative Initiatives (OPPLI) at HUD, looks to lead to-day’s African-American youth into making good choices for the future. “Our goal is to help the youth develop a ‘personal road map to life after high school and to help them acquire life-skills to become ready to pursue careers through college, the military or vocational training,’” he said. “Our purpose is to help participants become college, job or military ready and to develop a personal roadmap and action-plan toward their career goals.”
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is the first international fraternal organization founded on the campus of Howard University, a historically black college. The Third District’s Alpha Omega Chapter is committed to being the leader in the development and utilization of community-based programming for the treatment of children and families, and therefore, changing lives through innovative strategies.
Galloway developed the curriculum for OA and leads the monthly workshops to inspire and impart career-planning and life-skills to African-American youths. His efforts in mentoring local youth, ages 13-to-18, personifies the principles of his chapter. Additionally, his position at HUD helps him understand these young men as he mentors them in this next stage in their life.
“We are fortunate that we have professional members in our chapter that work in all of these career fields,” he explained. “Our workshop presenters have included a Federal Judge; a NASA Optics engineer that builds and tests optical lenses in satellites; senior military officers and a Deputy General Counsel for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; an entrepreneur who operates a nationally recognized management consultant firm; and an investment banker who worked on Wall Street.”
As part of the program, Galloway and members of the Alpha Omega chapter brings together youth and their parents to learn about everything from science to politics through guest speakers, tours and presentations. They recently visited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Silver Spring, Maryland, where they learned about NOAA’s work to monitor weather, oceans, glaciers, polar caps, and other atmospheric conditions.
The guest speaker was an Omega Psi Phi member, Vice Admiral Manson Brown, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired), the former Assistant Secretary for Commerce and NOAA’s Deputy Administrator. Brown, a native Washingtonian and graduate of the Universi-ty of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, was the first African-American to make flag rank in the Coast Guard.
He emphasized his education and his time in the Coast Guard and NOAA, stating to the group that “career goals can be reached in a variety of ways and you should take advantage of all opportunities.”
“Personal and community uplift and service is the core mission of our fraternity,” Galloway said. “Our fraternity was founded on November 17, 1911 at Howard University campus. It was found-ed to establish a national organization of ‘college-trained men’ with like ideals of attainment, who would be leaders in their respective fields and who would be committed to community service to ‘uplift and transform’ our Nation.”
Galloway has more than 25-years of experience in shaping affordable housing policy and self-sufficiency deliberations to address the needs of the most impoverished in our society. This experience has been insightful in understanding the challenges of overcoming poverty and dependence to help create an environment that helps youth and young adults overcome dependence, poverty, the performance gap and low high school graduation rates and unemployment.
“My empathy comes from a combined personal experience as a parent; being reared by a school teacher, combined with 14 years at HUD and 24 years working in the affordable housing industry with Public Housing Authorities (PHAs),” he said. “From my personal experience, as a parent and through HUD, I know that affordable housing, education, employment and a stable family with internal or external nurturing support and guidance are four significant needs or tools that people need to work toward self-reliance and to reach their full potential.”
It’s interesting to note that the first HUD Secretary and African-American Cabinet official, Robert Clifton Weaver, was a Harvard-trained economist, a member of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “black Cabinet.” He was also a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity as well as the same local chapter in the District of Columbia.
Galloway hopes to increase participation in OA from 32 to 40 plus, extending their outreach program. They also want to go further outside the Washington, D.C, area and further into the suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. They are planning to cover career planning and life-skills involving public speaking and time-management; how to study effectively; how to “writing work-shops” on writing essays, memos and letters; financial literacy and careers in accounting, finance and investment banking workshop; careers in aeronautical engineering and design; and legal careers.
“In light of the low graduation rate and performance gap, particularly for African-American male youth in the District and nation-wide, we recognize there is a tremendous need to provide academic enrichment, literacy, career planning and life-skills services and uplift that supports young adolescent men in need and their families,” Galloway concluded.