In its effort to recruit more African American students, the Cal State University system is headed to church.
Sunday service at the Greater Victory Temple in Seaside is always a lively event with singers, an organist and church members shaking tambourines. And this Sunday there’s an added twist. Up on stage are the interim President and Admissions Director from nearby Cal State Monterey Bay, KAZU’s parent institution. They stand alongside church elders.
This is Super Sunday. It’s an annual recruitment event in the Cal State University System. During the months of February and March, top officials from the 23 CSU campuses visit predominately African American Churches. “It’s the mission of the University and the mission of the CSU, very important, that we’re continually serving a diverse population of California,” said David Linnevers, Director of Admissions at CSUMB. A general goal is to have the student population in the CSU system reflect the state’s population, and right now when it comes to African Americans, the CSU system as a whole falls a little bit short. The latest census numbers show blacks make-up 6.6% of the state's population. In the CSU system, 4.8% of students identify solely as African American, the number is 6% at CSUMB.
During this Super Sunday Service, few kids sit in the pews, but prospective college students are not necessarily the target audience. “We know that education starts with parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, promoting that to the students and helping them stay engaged. So that’s the message of Super Sunday, not just reach the sixth graders or the high schoolers, but the parents are decision makers,” said Linnevers. It’s those decision makers who fill the lobby after the service. Church members crowd around information tables set up by CSUMB admissions and other campus and community organizations. Retired librarian Frankie Green stops to pick up some information for her granddaughter who’s in the fourth grade. “She’s going to become Condoleezza Rice. And she’s going to make lots of money, and I tell her that’s who she is. “I’m not Condoleezza Rice” I said I know you’re not, but you are my Condoleezza Rice. And you are going go to college and finish college,” said Green. One of the pamphlets Green takes is a guide on how to get to college. It starts with classes kids should take in the 6th grade, like a second language, then continues year by year through high school . The Church’s Director of Christian Education, Martha Henry, says Greater Victory Temple has long had a commitment to promoting higher education. Participation by CSUMB in recent years just takes it to another level. “By CSUMB coming in here, they’re saying ,okay we share that share that same dream for higher education. We have the roadmap. Here are the steps. Let us guide you,” said Henry.
Since CSUMB started new recruitment efforts like this five years ago, its African American study body increase by 80%. CSUMB Senior Kymberly Shavers is part of that number. She says her family insisted she attend college, but outside of her family, she heard other messages. “Statistically speaking I was told that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to college. It was a surprise that I even graduated from high school. It was expected that I would have at least two kids by now. And I just had to prove that I’m better than that. That that is not my fate, and that I can be a dynamic force in this world one day. And that’s my mission in life, to prove that,” said Shavers. Shavers graduates this year with a degree in business and a minor in non-profit management. She eventually plans to start her own non-profit to help kids in disadvantaged communities get on the path to college.