By Horace Mitchell
President, CSU Bakersfield
The CSU African American Initiative is a partnership with African American churches and that partnership comes to life annually through a statewide event known as Super Sunday. Throughout February we celebrate CSU Super Sunday, a day which all members of the California State University family including the trustees, presidents, the chancellor, university executives, faculty and staff visit African American churches across the state to promote the value of a college education and the importance of early academic preparation.
When we began this initiative in February 2006, church leaders challenged us to make certain it would be both effective and sustained. We started with 11 churches in LA and 13 in northern California and this month we will be attending services and making presentations at more than 100 African American churches throughout California.
The initiative provides the information and resources needed by parents, students, church congregations and the community at large to make sure African American students begin as early as possible to take the steps necessary to be prepared to attend college.
While Super Sunday is one day when we are most visible to congregations, throughout the year we are engaged with church communities to help put college solidly in our children’s future. All 23 CSU campuses work with church liaisons to provide information and academic outreach to students. We have held train-the-trainer workshops, educational forums, parent workshops, and Super Saturdays – all intended to provide key information to assist students in achieving readiness for college.
For several years now, the CSU has implemented new and innovative programs to increase student success and graduation. Because of the critical importance of math to college success, we have created summer algebra institutes to increase students’ math skills. We have added strategies to help parents become more involved in their child’s education at early ages and through high school, and to help students overcome the hurdles and challenges they face on the path toward graduation. The CSU will continue to lead the way to closing the achievement gaps that exist among groups of students.
As a result of this initiative, we have seen a significant increase in the number of African American students applying for freshman admission at CSU campuses and increased enrollment. However, there is still much more work to be done. For example, only about 19% of African American high school graduates have the academic achievement required to be eligible to attend a CSU campus. We want that percentage to increase to at least 33% in the short-term and 100% in the long-term as this is very much in support of a major goal of our initiative: increasing the number of African American CSU students and alumni.
Education is the key to a better future for our young people. It has become the necessary admission ticket to good jobs and a middle-class life-style. In today’s increasingly high-tech economy, higher education has replaced the high school diploma as the gateway to a quality life.
The CSU’s commitment is stronger than ever to motivate and encourage African American students to prepare for college and obtain a university degree. There is certainty that the economic recovery in our nation and in California will be driven in large part by education. To be awarded the jobs that are emerging after the recent economic crisis, the up and coming generations need to be college educated.
Graduation from college is empowering. It increases lifetime earnings. It enriches the quality of life for individuals and their families. It raises the overall level of educational attainment in our communities, and it increases the highly skilled workforce needed to power California’s, and our nation’s, economic recovery and development.
The CSU remains committed to preparing our citizens for tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities and to the creation of a stronger college-going culture among young African American students so that future generations will be prepared to achieve their educational best. Together we can ensure that every African American child has an opportunity to go to college and graduate.
Working together as a village, which has been our history, we can raise all of our children to place a high value on academic achievement, and to start early in preparing to attend and graduate from college. Then they can take the next steps toward fulfillment of their dreams, and the dreams we have for them.