Talking to Keilynn Burkes and Lamont Gilliam, two of this year's "Cluster Leaders" for the Black Male Leadership Development Institute, it's easy to see the impact of RMUsponsored programs to promote black male achievement. As Cluster Leaders, they are charged with being role models and counselors during the week-long summit on campus. Poised and unfailingly polite, they are enthusiastic about sharing the experiences that have helped them mature into leadership roles.
Nineteen-year-old Keilynn Burkes moved through several school districts during his formative years, and while he was always eager to learn, he was hesitant to stand out in a group. Recruited by a program manager in 2010, Keilynn was accepted into BMLDI, and had an experience that changed his life.
"BMLDI gave me the necessary tools I need to succeed in life. It's given me networking, communication skills, understanding, and experience executing goals." He has gone from a "shy and quiet" student to a leader. Today, not only is he a Cluster Leader at BMLDI, but he is undertaking an ambitious path of study as an intelligence and national security major at Point Park University.
Unlike Keilynn, Lamont was never a BMLDI participant. Instead, he came to the program as a result of his association with the Black Male Excellence Network. A rising junior at RMU who hopes to teach mathematics at the secondary level upon graduation, Lamont had joined BMEN to help navigate the Robert Morris experience. The support he found through BMEN convinced Lamont that "it's time for me to step up and take my place as a leader on campus."
As vice president of public relations for BMEN, he was responsible for building campus partnerships and instrumental in securing recognition from the Student Government Association. Next year, as president, he hopes to bring diverse speakers to campus and encourage the members to become more involved in campus activities. When he found out Rex Crawley was involved in BMLDI, he investigated and found the program would be an opportunity to help participants become "responsible citizens and good men" while gaining experience working with the age group he hopes to teach one day.
If they have their way, both Lamont and Keilynn will be back next year. Keilynn is already planning that if he has a son, he will recommend him for the program. To anyone planning to apply, he says, "When you sign up, be ready to be amazed."