CSUN Hosts National College Fair for First-Generation Students: ‘Destination College’

  • Motivational Speaker Stedman Graham speaks to parents at the Destination College event in the Plaza Del Sol Concert Hall on Nov. 1. Photo by DJ Hawkins

  • Prospective university students sit near the Matador Statue during the Destination College event at California State University, Northridge, Nov. 1. Photo by Dj Hawkins.

  • Parents and children enjoy posing with a giant Panda Express balloon during the Destination College fair at California State University, Northridge, Nov. 1. Photo by Dj Hawkins.

For many, college is a dream to reach for. At the 18th annual Destination College fair at California State University, Northridge, hundreds of first-generation future college students took one step closer to achieving that dream.

CSUN ranks 16th in the United States for awarding bachelor’s degrees to underrepresented minority populations according to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, and many of the university’s more than 40,000 students are the first in their families to attend college. Hundreds of minority students and their parents from the Los Angeles community came to the event to learn how to be better prepared for college.

One of the most important lessons learned, however, was not how to fill out financial aid or college application forms. But how to love oneself.

“How many people bought into that [they] are a second-class citizen because of the way they see themselves?” said keynote speaker Stedman Graham, CEO of S. Graham and Associates, motivational speaker, author and significant other of Oprah Winfrey. “It is not about the color of your skin. The problem is you don’t know who you are.”

Graham, who is part Native American and half African-American, explained to the parents in the audience that racial background should not be a deterrent to pursuing one’s dreams.

Jose Alvarez, a teacher from South Central Los Angeles, explained that learning to love oneself is indispensable to teaching children to grow within.

“This presentation is very powerful and makes me think of what can I do,” he said. “I am from South Central L.A. I had to find myself and love myself. All the children and all the adults from there have the intention to learn.”

Graham explained that Destination College encouraged love and empowerment for families.

“This conference is all about love,” he said. “They need to go to college! Education is so powerful. You have access to the whole world. When you can take this and dial up information all around the world and apply it to all your passions, all your talents, all your skills, you become better than you were yesterday.”

One mother came up to the front and expressed her concerns over her son, who is autistic and on his way to college.

“He believes in himself,” she said. “He is ready to meet the world. I have to be ready, too.”

A child sat in the front row, listening to Graham deliver his speech. He pointed to the child and explained to the audience that now is the time to encourage growth in order to help foster self-esteem and life goals.

“You can change her life right now because of what she believes about herself,” he said.