SACMEN Celebrates Ten Years

April 30, 2024

Office of Marketing & Strategic Communications

For Sergio Guerrero Sonora, coming to San Antonio College was just another task he had to check off his list. A graduate of Lanier High School, he planned to go to classes, do his homework, and go home and chill until the next day.

During his second semester at SAC, things began to change when he joined the San Antonio College Men Empowered Network, known as SACMEN. He was familiar with the group because one of his teachers from high school recommended it to him.

Although he started attending SACMEN meetings, he did so with reservations.

“When I first got here, I thought it was a little weird because joining an organization and talking to people you don’t know, it’s kind of not my thing,” he said, adding that it was  out of his comfort zone.

But once he joined, SACMEN mentors made sure he continued to stay with the group.

Soon Sonora, who considers himself a shy person, found himself connecting with other students. He learned skills  to help him be a more successful student, and he pursued networking opportunities in cybersecurity, the field he wants to follow once he finishes college.

Sonora is one of several hundred male students of color who have found success in college through SACMEN, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year on campus.

Modeled and affiliated with Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success) at the University of Texas at Austin, SACMEN was created to help men of color find academic support through leadership training and networking opportunities.

Geraldo Guerra, director of the Academic Success Centers, is the current director of SACMEN. He helped with the creation of the group with director of Student Success Mona Aldana-Ramirez, who served as the first director. Their mission was to address the issue of male students of color having one of the lowest graduation rates of all student populations.

Guerra, who had a great experience when he was a student at SAC, said he wanted to help others.

“We never had that conversation about the needs of minority males,” said Guerra. He added that no one talked about what struggles they faced along with their reluctance to ask for help.

Starting with just a small group of students, SACMEN grew steadily every year. It also gained recognition outside of the SAC campus. In 2018, SACMEN received an outstanding program award at the 5th Annual Texas Male Student Leadership Summit, the first time the award was given by the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color.

In 2019, Guerra took over the group when SACMEN moved from the Student Success Division to the Academic Success Division. One of his first actions was to adopt the Five Pillars used by Project MALES as the core values for SACMEN. The pillars are:

  • Brotherhood
  • Leadership
  • College and Career Readiness
  • Health and Wellness
  • Identity

“All of our program activities center on these Five Pillars to anchor our initiatives,” said Guerra.

Another change that came to the group was getting a place of their own on campus.  The SACMEN lounge, on the 7th floor of the Moody Learning Center, provided a dedicated space for studying, mentoring, and brotherhood.

Networking is a large part of SACMEN’s mission – helping students connect not only with each other and to faculty and staff, but others outside of SAC. One of the biggest opportunities came in 2019, when SACMEN was invited to join community leaders on a trip to Washington to speak with members of Congress and their staff about issues important to San Antonio. Organized by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, this was the first time college students were invited to attend.

During the last several years, SACMEN also has also hosted pláticas during the school year, inviting community leaders to lunch on campus and having conversations on wide ranging issues as well as advice on academic and career growth.

The sense of brotherhood is also a strong component of SACMEN. The shy students who first join the group learn how to become leaders and they, in turn, become mentors when new members arrive. Several former SAC students who have transferred to other universities come back to support the group.

Looking back over 10 years, Guerra said the reason for SACMEN’s sustained success has been creating a sense of belonging. “Creating authentic relationships. It takes a lot of time having conversations with each student, but it has been worthwhile,” he said.