The significant gap in literacy and reading between white students and students of color has roots in the income disparities between races. Statistics from Reading is Fundamental indicates that 50 percent of African-American, 47 percent of Hispanic and 49 percent of American Indian fourth graders score below the basic reading level.
Most often, African Americans and other communities of color lack viable resources and information on how to improve literacy, eating habits and leadership skills. In an effort to narrow these gaps, California State University, Northridge will host its third annual Black Youth Guidance Forum to discuss how to improve eating habits and community wellness, and create a literacy imperative for people of color.
The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, in the University Student Union, located on the east side of the campus at 18111 Nordhoff St. in Northridge. The theme for this year’s forum is “Healthy Outcomes for Communities of Color.”
“This [conference] serves to promote health and wellness, college prep and leadership to the population,” said Cedric Hackett, a professor in CSUN’s Department of Africana Studies and director of the university’s W.E.B. DuBois-Hamer Institute for Academic Achievement. “We’re looking at culturally responsive types of approaches to learning student engagement.”
The conference’s opening keynote speaker will be Dale Allender, a California State University, Sacramento assistant professor in language and literacy in the department of teaching credentials. Allender is known for his work on the award-winning television show “Expanding the Canon,” a series about teaching multicultural literature. The closing keynote speaker will be Josephine Stevens, a principal at Topeka Charter School for Advanced Studies in Northridge.
Both speakers will discuss racial uplift, health and wellness, college preparation and leadership development.
During the daylong forum, Jude Paul, an avid entrepreneur, will discuss his program Kidpreneurlife — an informational session that focuses on educating kids age 7 to 17 about entrepreneurship. The event also will feature Shartriya Collier, assistant professor of elementary education at CSUN and a literacy expert, discussing ways to improve writing.
“The fact that we have internal and external [speakers’] expertise is exciting,” said Hackett. “I am thrilled to engage the participants in educationally purposeful activities, with many featured speakers and instructional tracks that really speak to the theme.”
The forum will include four tracks — one for students in kindergarten to fifth grade, one for students in sixth to 12th grade, one for parents, and one for teachers, administrators, counselors and community leaders — designed to foster dialogue and collaboration among the attendees, said Hackett. Members of the public, students, staff and CSUN faculty are all encouraged to attend.
The event also will include workshops and a nonprofit resource advocacy fair, which will have information booths from nonprofit organizations such as the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office, California Credit Union, CSUN’s Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing and others.
Among the organizations taking part in the forum are CSUN’s Men Creating Attitudes for Rape-Free Environments — a campus-wide prevention program to end sexual violence through education, cultural change and leadership development — and Strength United, a CSUN community agency dedicated to ending abuse, developing leaders and empowering families.
“We’re trying to develop a kind of collaboration with nonprofit organizations, to close the achievement gap for communities of color and African-Americans,” said Hackett.
The event is co-sponsored by CSUN’s Department of Africana Studies, University Student Union, Educational Opportunity Programs and Division of Student Affairs, the California Endowment and the W.E.B. DuBois-Hamer Institute for Academic Achievement. The institute is organizing the forum as part of the university’s Black History Month Celebration.