The annual African American Leaders of Tomorrow (AALT) conference sponsored by the California Legislative Black Caucus was held this year on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, which was ranked first among universities in the state in the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred to black students, according to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine.
Fifty-two African American current and recent high school graduates throughout the state were invited to the three-day conference (which included overnight stays in University Housing) because of their drive and promise to succeed and take on leadership roles in college, their professional careers and in their communities.
Through workshops and panel discussions faculty, staff, students, and alumni of CSU Dominguez Hills as well as community leaders and professionals shared advice and best practices on topics including making good first impressions, developing a four-year plan for college, financial literacy, and plotting a career path.
Brent Carter, who will be a senior in the fall at Oakridge High School in El Dorado Hills near Sacramento, said that because he has been preparing for college—academically and in terms of being independent—he was eager to participate in the conference.
“Coming [to the conference] I also planned on discovering what major I want to be looking toward and what interest I have,” said Carter who is considering attending a CSU system school.
CSU Dominguez Hills Alumna Joy Masha (Class of ’10, B.A., human services) served as a mentor and chaperone to a group of four AALT students. The former Associated Students, Inc. president who currently works as a representative in the office of Assemblywoman and Black Caucus Chair Holly Mitchell (D-54), said as part of that role, she familiarized the students with CSU Dominguez Hills and encouraged them to get involved on campus to maximize their college experience.
“I think that it took the duration for the students to get adjusted to the vision of the conference. But by day two they really got it. … Then near the end of the third day they were saying things like, ‘This conference has really got me thinking about what my next steps are,’” Masha said. “Some of them now know their plan, they know what they want to major in, they know what internship they are interested in and the job they want after they graduate.”
AALT participants, such as Loyola Marymount University incoming freshman Lashyra Nolan, were able to learn about college, career, and leadership from a meaningful perspective.
“This is a totally unique experience. I’m used to being maybe the only black student in the room. But here it was filled with [black students] and it was just a great experience,” Nolan commented. “I came here because I wanted to better prepare myself for my college experience, but also enable myself to get a better outlook of how to be a better leader while in college and how to represent African American culture.”
During a plenary welcome, University President Willie J. Hagan shared with AALT students, guests, and the members of the Black Caucus about his own experience. Not expecting much of himself academically early on, he credited the encouragement of a key figure at his high school with enabling him to redefine his future.
“This one guidance counselor … put me on a path that got me here,” Hagan recalled. “Some of you are on [your own] path because you’re here.”
For more information on the California Legislative Black Caucus, visit blackcaucus.legislature.ca.gov.