Harambee Conference Reaches Out to High School Students

  • Vice President for Student Affairs William Watkins addresses the Harambee Conference attendees. Photo courtesy of Lee Choo.

  • Dirk Braxton (Electrical Engineering) answers a question about the university as part of a student panel. Photo courtesy of Luis Garcia.

For some high school students, the option of attending college after high school is not always guaranteed. California State University, Northridge has given many students an opportunity to receive a high-quality education and prove themselves in an academic environment, and this opportunity begins with programs like the Harambee High School Conference.

On Feb. 26, the Northridge Center was filled with 329 students from 13 high schools throughout Southern and Central California, including Village Christian, Bakersfield High School, Taft, Birmingham, Palisades and Price High School, attended the annual conference. Each year, the Harambee Student Association and the CSUN Office of Student Outreach and Recruitment Services invite mostly African-American students to tour the campus and experience what it’s like to be a CSUN student for a day.

The day began with some remarks from Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students William Watkins. Attendees were able to sit in on a lecture, ask CSUN students questions about attending the university and speak to various faculty members about how their goals could be achieved by receiving a college education.

The student panel featured CSUN students from all walks of life speaking about why they decided to go to college and the challenges that they overcame once they were admitted. Student panelist Dirk Braxton (Electrical Engineering) spoke about his frustrations with transitioning from high school and managing his study habits.

“My focus was on my experiences when I came to CSUN,” Braxton said. “I was arrogant.

“I had a good GPA in high school, so I thought it was going to be smooth sailing. But my second year, I wasn’t focused, and I had some problems passing a class. So I had to change my mindset to put the proper amount of time and effort into passing the class.”

The conference also featured a session dedicated to identity, and the different roles one could take on during their lives. The discussions were designed to help students understand that no matter what background they came from, they were perfectly capable of achieving in a university environment.

Academic Adviser Ryan Mason hopes that the program can inspire students and help them not only attend an academic institution, but go on to even greater things.

The common goal is to see students not only on the access side, but also the retention side, and inspire them to matriculate and ultimately graduate,” Mason said. “My goal as an academic advisor is to be assured that they have a definite career placement, and I would love to see all my students go on to graduate school.”

The day ended with some spoken word performances, and a final opportunity for students to explore the campus and its facilities.