Getting a Jump on Life through Stony Brook’s Student African American Brotherhood
In Darhiel De Leon’s words, it’s the intangible qualities of membership in the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) that benefit students most.
“We have great programs, but more importantly, we learn how to communicate with our advisors, who are working professionals at Stony Brook,” says Darhiel, SAAB’s current president and a fourth-year student in the College of Engineering’s five-year BS/MS program in Mechanical Engineering. “We learn how to dress and act in a professional manner, how to manage our time, and how to develop ourselves and others.”
SAAB, a national organization based on the core principles of accountability, proactive leadership, self-discipline and intellectual development, was founded to improve the retention and graduation statistics of African American and Latino males. The organization stresses academics within a congenial structure characterized by mutual mentoring and support. The program connects students with campus resources such as Student Affairs, the Career Center, the Undergraduate Colleges, and the new Academic Success and Tutoring Center.
Darhiel, from Woodhaven, joined SAAB during his freshman year at the urging of another member who was a Resident Assistant (RA) in his building. “I went to a couple programs and thought it was really great. I liked that it wasn’t a huge organization. Everyone knew each other. It felt like family.”
Like Darhiel, senior Peter Milien joined SAAB as a freshman. Within a couple of months he applied to be on the Executive Leadership Team and became the membership recruitment committee chair. He became president in his junior year and is now chair of the financial affairs committee.
“I’ve had the opportunity to influence a lot of people who have come through the organization and to bring in new brothers,” says Peter, from Brooklyn, who is majoring in Health Science and minoring in Music and Technology. “If you look at the statistics, so many of us don’t finish college in four years – or at all. Our mission is to turn that around.”
There are 33 current members of SAAB who plan and attend information-based programs that are geared toward professional careers and networking, such as the recent popular program in financial literacy. Other topics include effective public speaking, character building, and business etiquette. Eight staff and faculty advisors help members create personal development plans and provide guidance to help them achieve their goals.
Being in SAAB has led to many opportunities for both students. As part of his community service experience in SAAB, Peter has taken part in Admissions’ panel discussions for high school students and twice participated in President Stanley’s roundtables. He is a Student Ambassador and a Fellow with the Undergraduate College for Leadership and Service, has been an RA for three years and volunteers in the hospital.
“In SAAB I have people that I can relate to, and I’m able to help them out as they’ve been helping me,” says Peter, who will enroll in the School of Health Technology and Management’s postgraduate certification medical dosimetry program in the fall.
Darhiel has been an RA for two years and is an active member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Without SAAB, he says, he would never have become friends with others in his major. “I probably wouldn’t have spoken to them otherwise. We help each other out with classwork and studying. SAAB emphasizes accountability — not just for yourself, but for your brothers.”
"Stony Brook’s SAAB Chapter is seven years old and was the first chapter to be established in New York State, the Northeast, and SUNY," says Cheryl Chambers, Associate Dean for Multicultural Affairs and advisor to SAAB. "We are a model chapter of the national SAAB organization. I am incredibly proud of the students in this unique program who demonstrate great leadership, work to develop a strong peer community, and support each other's achievements and successes."
“I’ve changed a lot,” says Darhiel. “When I go to any program now, I want to know what I’m going to learn from it, not what kind of food they are serving.”
“The best thing that’s happened to me is having access to faculty and administrators,” Peter says. “I can walk into the Dean of Students’ office and people know who I am.”
For more information about SAAB, contact the Office of Multicultural Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Toby Speed