Aaron Buford joined the Community for Social Progress in his sophomore year (2007) and graduated from UMass Amherst in spring 2009 with a bachelor’s degree with individual concentration in youth leadership and urban development and a minor in African American studies. Today, he teaches psychology and U.S. history at Springfield Central High School in Massachusetts. Aaron aspires to pursue a doctorate in psychology and to work as a therapist focusing on issues related to masculinity and youth violence.
From his sophomore year until graduation, Aaron did community service at the Men’s Resource Center of Amherst, Massachusetts (http://www.mrcforchange.org/), where, along with fellow Community for Social Progress member Malcolm Chu (who later became president of the UMass Amherst Student government body and currently works as a community organizer in Springfield, Massachusetts), he developed the Young Men of Color Leadership Group, a mentoring program designed to empower young men of color to be positive forces in their community and to address negative perceptions of young men of color that were present in the Amherst community at the time. Their program focused on how relationships and issues of masculinity “play out” for men of color, and emphasized violence prevention, healthy relationships, personal growth, and leadership development. In 2007, Aaron was elected president of the UMass Student Government Association and was the chief student negotiator during the 2007 student general strike. He was active in the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM; see http://phenomonline.org/), a Massachusetts higher education network that promotes access to higher education. He was also a mentor and consultant to A Better Chance (http://www.amherstabetterchance.org/), a program of which he himself is an alumnus. Aaron sees work as a teacher as building on the work he began as a student. He says: