Ten Years After Its Founding, F&M Student Group “IMPACT” Takes Its Model Across the Country
When he was a sophomore at Franklin & Marshall College in 2004, Aviel Ayoung ’06 traveled to Colgate University to visit some friends. He saw something there that caught his eye, something that he needed to take back to F&M. It wasn't a sweatshirt or a poster for his dorm. He had seen a group that was less of a student club and more of a brotherhood, a collection of men from different cultures who worked together to help the community—and each other.
When he got back to campus, he joined forces with Joaquim Hamilton ’06 to create a similar presence in Lancaster.
As Hamilton will tell you, there was a need for this kind of organization. “We wanted a place to talk about issues and careers, a place where we could be social and serious at the same time,” he says.
Hamilton and Ayoung took the initiative to fill this void, creating IMPACT (Intelligent Men of Color Purposefully Accomplishing College Together). The aim of the organization is to encourage African American and Latino men to form bonds—from meetings to programs to events—to share their experiences with one another and help each other excel in college and in the professional world.
As it celebrates its 10th anniversary, IMPACT—which is open to students of all backgrounds—continues to grow both on campus and elsewhere. There is currently an effort to turn IMPACT into a national presence, and other campuses are following the F&M model in launching their own chapters.
“A random idea in a dorm room more than 10 years ago has turned into my life’s purpose for the foreseeable future. I truly couldn’t imagine my story without IMPACT,” says Hamilton, director of college connection at Philadelphia Futures, a nonprofit organization devoted to aiding low-income, first-generation college students. “IMPACT forced me to be a role model. It allowed me to understand how my everyday experience can help shape someone else’s choices. Ultimately, it allowed me to understand that my voice and actions can actually change the world.”
From classes and paying bills to being away from home for the first time and preparing for the next step in life, the college years can be daunting for 18-to-22 year olds. And considering the social issues that students can face, the benefits of a support system become obvious.
Oliver Tingling ’11 faced those challenges when he stepped onto campus in the fall of 2007. But during his first year, the Bronx native found IMPACT. For Tingling, it was a game-changer.
“When I was a freshman, IMPACT gave me a support team,” recalls Tingling. “I learned tips for my professional life. It allowed me to learn how to speak to professionals, and it's helping me, in my professional life, with Apple Inc. right now.”
What makes IMPACT so effective, its members say, is that it’s not your standard college club. Think of the organization as a collection of brothers who always have each other’s best interests in mind. They mentor one another, through tutoring or helping someone figure out how to balance his life. IMPACT creates workshops to educate its members about important steps, such as how to plan financially. It links members to a wide network of professionals so they can learn about how to take the next step in building a career. And it fosters discourse about issues that can detract from someone's success in college—particularly issues that affect men of color. For IMPACT, being inclusive is critical.
“One of the best aspects of IMPACT is that it branches into so many areas,” says Tingling, who remains involved with the organization. “It’s a support system. It’s a brotherhood. It’s about getting involved with the community. It’s about preparing you for the next step as a young professional.”
In the decade since its inception, IMPACT has been a force when it comes to charitable efforts, as both the local community and those beyond Lancaster’s borders have felt the effects of its initiatives. During one fundraiser, IMPACT raised $2,000 for F&M’s Soccer Africa project, in which F&M students introduce public-health issues to South African youth through sport-based education.
F&M alumni have introduced this facet of the IMPACT model to other institutions, as well. The Arcadia University (in Glenside, Pa.) chapter of the organization, founded by F&M alumnus Stephen Tyson ’07, held a basketball tournament to raise money for Playgrounds for Palestine.
Spreading the Word
Like Hamilton and Ayoung, as a newly arrived student at F&M, Tyson felt he needed a support system. He quickly joined IMPACT, reaping the benefits the organization offered. These days, Tyson is the director for the Young Men's Initiative at Philadelphia Futures.
“When I arrived on campus, there was no IMPACT,” recalls Tyson. “Then everything changed. I had a place that gave me familiarity that wasn't there before. From there, I built a lasting camaraderie. We went out and did work in the community. We continued to grow.”
After graduating from F&M, Tyson pursued a master’s degree in international peace and conflict resolution at Arcadia. When he got to the university’s Glenside campus, he saw a need for an organization like IMPACT. His solution? Start another chapter. Setting IMPACT in motion at another school shows the power of the organization, he says.
“It’s definitely a testament to the impact of IMPACT,” says Tyson, who is currently pursuing an Ed.D at Arcadia. “There wasn’t anything like this on [Arcadia’s] campus. It gave a sense of camaraderie. People on other campuses are asking how to start a chapter. They’ve felt that there’s a lack of places like this on their campuses.”
Last fall, the University at Buffalo launched its own chapter of IMPACT after a member of the university contacted the F&M IMPACT group, which helped the new chapter with its infrastructure. And this could be just the beginning. Two years ago, nine members of IMPACT—Hamilton, Tyson, Tingling, Lorenzo Daughtry-Chambers ’11, Paul Fields, Shadoe Tarver ’10, Derek Pediford ’10, Michael Armstrong ’11 and Lipton Thompson Jr.—turned IMPACT from a campus student group into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Back on the F&M campus, the organization remains a significant part of many students’ lives. Current IMPACT president Keiran Miller ’15 will never forget the day he received his IMPACT hoodie during his first year, or the numerous conversations that have helped him adjust to—and succeed in—college.
“I never had a solid group of male friends growing up,” Miller says. “I was always hanging out with my female friends, and I’d be the odd one out. IMPACT allows me to have a network of highly driven men I can rely on in a crisis. The support is immense…I met the older brothers three months ago, and I felt like I was part of something incredible; a movement that would transcend these four years at F&M and take me forward in life.”
As IMPACT aspires to greater heights, one memory from the F&M campus remains etched in Hamilton's mind.
“During my senior year, we packed the Barshinger Center for the IMPACT Male Auction,” Hamilton remembers. “It was a very symbolic moment for us as an organization. We had men from all races and backgrounds and campus affiliations. We raised more than $3,000 for the Milagro House (a long-term, education-based program in Lancaster committed to restoring the lives of homeless women and children). It was great to welcome the larger community into our world, and begin to change the social culture at F&M.”