Executives from all levels of the California State University converged on predominantly black churches all over the state Sunday for “Super Sunday,” an outreach event geared at reeling African-American students into college and the CSU.
Cal State Fullerton President Mildred García attended Friendship Baptist Church in Yorba Linda to deliver remarks and extend a hand in partnership to the church that at one time was the only black church in Fullerton. It has since relocated to Yorba Linda.
The effort to bring more black students to the CSU and college through the annual Super Sunday event began eight years ago as the CSU African-American Initiative when former Chancellor Charles Reed and Bishop Charles E. Blake met with community, business and education leaders to strategize and implement new ways to inform K-12 students, parents and families about the significance and benefit of a college degree.
The quest at CSUF has had a lot of success, according to García, who is now reaping the benefits of an ethnically diverse student population.
Since fall 2002, the number of African-American students at CSUF has risen roughly 6 percent, according to data compiled from Institutional Research and Analytical Studies at CSUF.
The number of students in 2005 jumped by more than 21 percent from 2004, but sharply fell in 2009 to below 1,000 enrolled students campus-wide.
García said the reason for reaching out to predominantly black churches is because they have a greater sense of community in church that promote and encourage their children and adolescents to go to college.
“It’s encouraging the African-American community to understand that the CSU is a place for them as well as all students,” García said. “The African-American population was not echoable in the CSU, and once they started letting people know about the CSU, they started to understand,” she said.
In addition, García said she and her staff are currently working on additional similar outreaches aimed at other ethnicities like Hispanics, Vietnamese and Asian Americans.
During her time at Cal State Dominguez Hills, García said she hosted a large outreach event where about 50,000 Hispanic students and their families attended. She expressed interest in hosting an equivalent event with the same purpose.
Rev. Kenneth Curry, executive minister of Friendship Baptist Church, said the partnership created between his church and CSUF has been good as the two entities shared members in a sort of symbiotic relationship.
Curry said the coalition between them has helped his members go to college and bring students from CSUF to his church, as many members are CSUF alumni.
“This church grew because it was the only African-American church in Fullerton at that time,” said Curry.
He added that the chair of their board, James Shelby, played football at CSUF when the university still had a team.
“We have lots of students … there’s two partnerships: We want our kids to be excited about (the) Cal State initiative about going to college, that it’s available and affordable. But we also we want a partnership because we have the opportunity to minister to Cal State Fullerton,” he said.
Friendship Baptist Church currently offers academic support programs for its members that prepares students for the SAT and ACT as well as tutoring in mathematics, science and language arts. The program, called the Friendship Development Foundation, touts a 100 percent high school graduation rate and individual scholarships for books as well as other benefits.
Celeste Wall, a CSUF alumna and program director for the program for the last ten years, said the relationship between CSUF and Friendship Baptist Church is great and they have seen a steady increase in their students attending college since Super Sunday has been around.
“We have a lot of good students from your school come to church here. That’s how I came to church here, 35 years ago,” said Wall.