California State University, Long Beach
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Super Sunday Efforts Expanded

Published: March 1, 2016

For the past 10 years, leaders from CSULB and the other 22 California State University campuses have reached out to share messages about the importance of a college education with the membership of African-American churches throughout the state during CSU Super Sunday.

As part of this year’s outreach, President Jane Close Conoley and Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Taylor addressed the members of two churches in the Long Beach area. On Feb. 28, Conoley spoke at Family of Faith Christian Center while Taylor spoke at Antioch Church of Long Beach.

A 2015 report by the Campaign for College Opportunity cited the following trend–the college-going rate of African Americans who graduate from a California high school is about 40 percent–down from 46 percent in 2003.

Conoley, Taylor and other university staff are working diligently to reverse that trend.

For example, President Conoley, through the leadership of Vice President Taylor, has established a church initiative through the Long Beach Ministers Alliance, a group of 15-20 church leaders from around Long Beach. The group meets on a monthly basis and Conoley has direct contact with the ministers.

“The initiative was established because the university needed to find a better way to develop a college-going culture within the churches,” Taylor said. “We needed to do more than speak to the church membership once a year.”

The Ministers Alliance has welcomed the expanded partnership with open arms.

“The Long Beach Ministers Alliance and the university have a goal alignment. The closer that we are, the more productive that our relationship will be,” said Gregory Sanders, founder and senior pastor of The ROCK Christian Fellowship and a recent president of the Ministers Alliance. “We want to see the fruit in the form of enrollment and graduation of young men and women of color.”

Those initial meetings led to ongoing dialogues between the university and church leaders about how best to work together to develop the college-going culture in the churches, and the CSULB Church Collaborative was born.

Among some of the strategies to accomplish the goal of developing that culture is a “Math Collaborative,” a year-long program for high school boys with a culminating two-week experience during the summer when students stay on campus in the dorms and are immersed in the college culture, math education and SAT/ACT preparation.

As part of the monthly work, CSULB and church leaders are also gathering for training sessions where university staff works with church representatives to educate them about a variety of topics critical to accessing and being successful at obtaining a university education. Using a “train-the-trainers” model, the CSULB team has led workshops about financial aid, A-G college requirements, information and interpretation of SAT tests and scores and CSU’s Early Start program. After these workshops, the church representatives can then go out and share that information with their respective memberships.

The ministers and church staff have found the sessions helpful, and the information is leading to even more questions that can help increase the number of African-American men and women going to and graduating from college.

“We are asking our membership about the trajectories of their families. How many of their kids are at the elementary school level? What are their goals? With this new information, we can start helping those children navigate that trajectory earlier to get a real feel for college,” said Sanders.

The expanded relationship is off to a strong start. For those who take in the sermon delivered by Conoley or Taylor, it’s just one part of a much bigger effort.