March 22, 2005

Bryson named to state commission

by Tom Woolf


CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has tapped Seymour Bryson, Southern Illinois University Carbondale's associate chancellor for diversity, to serve on the state's African-American Family Commission.

The 15-member commission, headquartered in Chicago, guides and collaborates with state agencies to develop and improve community programs that will address the needs of African-American children and families. Bryson is serving a one-year term on the commission, which meets quarterly.

Bryson said his focus is on improving educational opportunities for African Americans, particularly at the elementary and secondary levels.

"That is critical to all aspects of family life, and it underscores everything the commission has been asked to address," he said. "I see that as one of my contributions – to increase the focus on the quality of education being provided to African Americans in Illinois."

It is vital that youngsters learn not only basic skills, but also the importance of education to their futures.

"We ought to make certain that kids get a good beginning and that educational opportunity remains open throughout their lives," Bryson said.

He is concerned that youngsters' educational options, particularly in the African-American community, are being limited at a very early age.

"There is a disproportionate number of black males who are placed in special education at an early age and that has an impact on their careers and professional options," he noted. "Look at the prison population and the people who are having adjustment problems. If you did a close examination of their educational preparation, you would find many have been in limiting curriculums early in their careers."

Such "very restrictive" educational experiences create various obstacles for African-American students.

"They find it difficult to perform on standardized tests, it affects the quality of their experiences during their high school years and restricts opportunities to go onto higher education," Bryson said. "If you're in special education, you're limited to service occupations for the rest of your life."

Bryson feels "very fortunate" to serve on the commission.

"One of the things I can bring to the table is a look at the life of African Americans outside of metropolitan areas," he said. "We need to look at all of Illinois. That's why I am advocating having our next meeting in Carbondale in June. I'm very optimistic that will happen."