After nearly 300 mostly African-American high school students proudly repeated the phrase “I am somebody,” those same students on Friday, Feb. 22, met with California State University, Northridge alumni and students to find out how they can secure a place at a college campus like CSUN.
The students, from nine high schools from throughout California including two from the San Fernando Valley, were brought to their feet by former NFL player Michael Stewart. His presentation, titled “Character: Do You Have What it Takes,” called on the students to take the necessary steps to get a college education.
“Everyone in here is a leader,” said Stewart. “If you lead, you can lead people to victory.”
The students were invited to campus by the Harambee Student Association and the CSUN Office of Student Outreach and Recruitment Services. The annual event, the Harambee High School Conference, aims to “encourage” African-American students to “get excited” and begin to prepare for college.
“This is an event unique to our campus,” said William Watkins ’74 (Urban Studies), CSUN’s vice president of student affairs, who welcomed those in attendance. “Seven years ago, there was recognition of the need for our campus community to come together to address the issues of African-Americans, our hopes, our dreams and our aspirations.”
After the welcome, the students broke out into workshops, where they were able to ask a panel of current students and alumni about their college experience. Among the questions posed: What are college parties like? How do you get financial aid? What is life like in the dorms?
“This event is very inspiring because hearing the stories from college students answers my questions of what college is like,” said Sandra Noua, a sophomore at Northridge Academy High School. “It’s kind of scary heading into college because you don’t know what to expect. Hearing from them makes a difference.”
Kim Thompson, the adviser for the Black Student Union at the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences, said the conference is important for her students because many of their parents have not gone to college. She said the students have a lot of questions about how to enroll and graduate from college.
Arthur Crockam, president of the Harambee Student Association and a student panelist, said that when he was in high school he did not have an opportunity to ask questions about college like the students who attended this conference.
“My high school counselors weren’t as helpful to me and they didn’t provide access to this type of information,” Crockam said. “It’s a rewarding experience, being able to share our experiences with these students.”