Azario Cush, a sixth grader at Wilmington Middle School, already has his sights set on college; he wants to study culinary arts. Brenda Galvan, a 10th grader at Synergy Quantum Academy Charter High School in Los Angeles, is trying to decide what area of engineering she’d like to specialize in when she gets to college. Joseph Gardner, a senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Riverside, wants to major in cinematography.
Whether these students stick with these pursuits over the next several years remains to be seen; however, one thing is for sure, they have a better shot at success because they are preparing for college now. On August 17, they were among nearly 3,000 visitors who got an up-close and personal view of college during the Seventh Annual California State University (CSU) Super Saturday College Fair hosted on the CSU Dominguez Hills campus.
From communities across southland, middle and high school students and their parents, family members, and youth organization leaders had the opportunity to learn about college readiness, the application process, financial aid, choosing a major, and several other topics–and even about the joys of campus life. Following a morning lineup of interactive workshops, representatives from each of the 23 campuses that make up the CSU system were also on hand to respond to inquiries about their distinct university.
Silvestre Vallejo, who is the director of college affairs for College Track, a national non-profit organization that promotes college readiness for first-generation college students, chaperoned 20 ninth- and 10th-grade students from Boyle Heights the Super Saturday college fair.
“It’s really important for me to start exposing [students] to different careers, different universities. I wanted them to not only benefit from the information provided here, but to also see the campus,” he said.
A prominent theme throughout the day focused on programs that are available to help children from underserved communities succeed in college. The positive impact mentors can have on such a student’s education was discussed during the workshop “African American and Latino Males in Higher Education.”
“Connect with a mentor who has your best interest in mind,” urged panelist and CSU Dominguez Hills associate vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs William Franklin. Franklin brought his expertise as the coordinator of the highly effective Male Success Alliance (MSA)–a university initiative focused on the practice of male students of color serving as mentors to each other, their underclassmen, and to boys at local middle and high schools, with the end goal of earning a college degree.
Other tactics for academic success were urged, too.
“Learn to write well … be disciplined, learn how to manage your time, stay very focused. No matter what, don’t drop out. Be strategic,” advised one of the workshop’s six panelists along with Franklin. “The best part is, an education teaches you how to learn. … You’ll be teaching yourself things all your life.”
Emanuel Gardner, who visited the Super Saturday event with his son–the aspiring cinematographer mentioned earlier–commented that such information can “Plant the seed for any child that takes it and runs with it because, undoubtedly, the information and heartfelt concern from these men that we’ve heard today, can help any child succeed.”
Gardner also found the workshop “Educational Tools and Resources” to be equally useful in his quest to help guide his son through his educational journey.
Parents got tips on how to actively engage in their children’s college experience through “Parent Training and Empowerment,” a workshop led by Gayle Ball-Parker, director of Alumni and Family Programs at CSU Dominguez Hills.
“Because you’ve gone to workshops like this and learned valuable information, you can help your children understand the correct information. … You can help them make better decisions,” she said. “That’s part of being a parent.”
University President Willie J. Hagan helped to open the day during a general session welcome in the Torodome gymnasium, saying, “You are here today, and that’s important. … I think we’re all here to make the right choices. … It’s all about making choices for your future.”
The Super Saturday College Fair was developed as a result of the success experienced through Super Sunday, an annual outreach event held each February that brings CSU leadership to local churches to take the pulpit about college preparation.
Saturday’s event was the largest in its seven years on campus due in large part to a first-time partnership between CSU and McDonald’s Operators of Southern California, which provided free transportation to students and families living in Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and Antelope Valley.
Find out more about Super Saturday and the African American Initiative here.