Before he boarded the bus each morning for Broward College, Woodllyson Acluche stood before a mirror to get himself ready for class. Hidden beneath his bushy beard and unruly hair was ambition that he is fortunate his instructors could see.

“I was a scary-looking individual,” said Acluche. “It took someone from the outside to see the potential that I had to invest their time and ensure that I become a success.”

That someone was professor Kaya Hamer-Small, who encouraged Acluche one day after class to join the Minority Male Initiative, a Broward College strategy that provides underserved students with the support they need to complete their college goals. When he accepted the invitation, Acluche had no idea of the resources including mentorships, networking and leadership and like-skills training that were available to enhance his Broward College experience.

How was he to know? After all, Acluche didn’t find out about opportunities to attend Broward College until he was 21 years old. Up until then, he had little time for education. He was working mornings as a salesperson at Macy’s. His afternoons were spent grilling chicken at Pollo Tropical and the evenings involved stocking shelves at Target. Long on hard work and determination, Acluche always fell short on guidance and direction.

‘Work or Leave the House’

Woodllyson AclucheBorn in the United States, Acluche moved to Haiti when he was 10 years old to live with his aunt, and younger sister and brother. He returned to Florida seven years later to move in with his father.

“Everyone can be a father, but not everyone can be a dad,” said Acluche. “That mental and moral support, that love and compassion that you need, I didn’t have. It was either you work or leave the house.”

Acluche chose work, which meant dropping out of Miramar High School before he could complete the 11th grade. After juggling three jobs and at the recommendation of his pastor, he joined Miami Job Corps, completed his GED and pursued a trade. Those plans took an about face when an advisor convinced Acluche that a degree would be better suited to his career aspirations. He then enrolled in the Criminal Justice program and earned his associate degree in May.

Change in Attitude

Now, he looks back at the circumstances that had shaped his life and credits the peer and faculty mentors he encountered in the Minority Male Initiative and the interpersonal skills he developed for his attitude adjustment.

“I realized I didn’t have to go through college alone,” said Acluche, who is studying toward a bachelor’s degree in Supervision and Management at Broward College. “It was a tremendous help to know I had a tangible place to lean on. I made lifelong friends. And I learned about all resources at Broward College that are helping me to become the man I never thought I could be.”

That man, now 26 and growing, has become a mentor himself, doubling as a peer academic leader with the Minority Male Initiative. Acluche spreads a message of hope to local high school and middle school students who, like him, want to make their mark, but don’t know where to turn.

“Yes, you are handsome,” Acluche now reminds himself confidently in front of the mirror each morning before hopping in his car to Broward College. “And you are going to conquer this.”

The Minority Male Initiative is making a difference in the lives of Broward College Students who face unique obstacles toward completing academic and career goals. See what faculty mentors and peer support can mean for you.