This profile is the first in a series on SUNY Broome’s Men of Excellence program.

yvesFatherhood, a full-time job, a challenging degree: Yves Raphael often finds himself juggling roles and responsibilities. There are days when Raphael, a second-year Human Services major at SUNY Broome, feels daunted by the prospect of writing yet another paper for class.

But Raphael – one of the college’s Men of Excellence – need only look at his seven-year-old son for inspiration. As a father and an emerging black male scholar, his success and dedication pay off not only for his own life, but for his son’s as well.

“I tell him every day: I go to school, you go to school. I’m learning, and he’s seeing me go through my process,” Raphael reflected. “I tell him, ‘You got to do it, even if you don’t want to sometimes.’”

Originally from Brooklyn, Raphael earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice years back, down in the city. Until around two years ago, he and his wife were building their lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with their young son.

Eight months pregnant with their second child, his wife was attending college at the time. And then the unthinkable happened: she and the baby passed away. Bereft, Raphael and his son moved north to Upstate New York in an effort to rebuild their lives.

He took six months to get his head together and found a full-time job at a teacher’s aide at a Binghamton elementary school, where he works with special needs children. Last year, he headed back to school himself.

“My wife was working on her degree when she died. My degree is a degree for both of us,” he said.

He plans to build on his associate’s, earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in his field, and ultimately pursue a career in either a school or hospital setting.

Along the way, he has his own support group in Men of Excellence, a new campus initiative to address the needs of male students of color. Sponsored by the President’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, the year-long program will focus on providing SUNY Broome’s men of color with intensive academic, professional and social support. It kicked off with a student-oriented conference in late August, featuring Dr. Carlos Medina, the first Latino vice chancellor in the history of the SUNY system and SUNY’s Chief Diversity Officer.

Raphael learned about the program from Professor Julia O’Connell, who thought he might be a good fit. The initiative was much needed, said Raphael, and will certainly help him and his peers reach college success.

Father, student, teacher’s aide – now Raphael can add another title: black male scholar. It’s another summit to reach for, another milestone to reach.

“Black male scholars are a rare commodity,” he said. Being one? “It’s a great feeling.”

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