Like every college freshman in fall 2019, Noah Stanigar had a first year that did not go as planned. The Jamaican-born, Las Vegas–raised undergrad says he had no idea what to expect from the University of Washington. But things started to derail even before a pandemic forced classes online.
“My first quarter was hard,” Stanigar, ’23, remembers. “That transition, moving from Las Vegas and getting acclimated to Washington, classes, and the environment — it was a lot to handle at first. Then, seeing barely anyone that looks like you, it sometimes drags you down emotionally. That was before I found a community.”
Stanigar’s college career could have ended as many do — economic struggles and other systemic barriers lead to Black men having the lowest graduation rates of any demographic group, a full 20% lower than white men. Instead, he found the UW Brotherhood Initiative (BI), a growing program aligned with the UW’s Race & Equity Initiative. Designed to provide a more inclusive learning community for men of color on campus, the Brotherhood Initiative offers cohort-based seminars and one-on-one mentorship.
With the BI’s support, Stanigar’s hard work, quiet confidence and earnest commitment to making a difference have served him well. The senior is now a double major in business (marketing and information systems) with Foster School honors. He’s a mentor through Young Executives of Color and a Mary Gates Leadership Scholar. And he’s deeply invested in giving back to the organization to which he attributes his success.
To Stanigar, the heart of the program is Paul Metellus, the BI’s student success coordinator. He’s the pipeline to resources, the one writing the newsletters, an advocate, adviser, mentor, friend — he’s “the dude who’s carrying it on his back,” says Stanigar.
Metellus builds rapport from the start by giving every new BI student his cell number. “If they have a good relationship with me and really trust me,” he says, “it makes it easier to come to me when they’re stressed.”
That stress is real: Black men are more likely to be juggling full-time employment with classes, to be the first in their family to attend college, and to have no cushion of generational wealth. Metellus works with the students to overcome any obstacle — big or small — to reaching graduation.
“If there are life issues going on, that’s definitely impacting them academically,” he says. Same for financial troubles. He cultivates connections all over campus so he can send students to not only the appropriate department but to a friendly face there. “I always say, ‘Take a deep breath, we’ll get through this together.’”
Metellus was integral in helping Stanigar get through that first year. “It was my first midterm that got me,” Stanigar says, describing a bad grade he received after inadvertently skipping a page of the exam. Then a discussion with an academic adviser left him feeling even more worried — “like all was lost.” Metellus helped him “become levelheaded and realize everything was not going to fall apart,” he recalls. “Learning that I was able to make mistakes in college really boosted my morale.”
Metellus says, “I’m really proud of Noah. He’s passionate about creating a space for men of color on campus to thrive and flourish the way he’s been able to thrive and flourish.”
Learn more about the Brotherhood Initiative
Originally published October 2022
What you care about can change the world
When you give to support the Brotherhood Initiative and Sisterhood Initiative, you can help students of color like Noah Stanigar find community and become leaders who make the UW and the world a better place, for generations to come.