Harambee Conference Inspires Students of Color

  • CSUN welcomed more than 300 high school students to the Harambee Student Association's annual Harambee High School Conference. Photo by Patricia Carrillo.

  • This year's conference introduced high school students from Los Angeles and Oxnard to CSUN by providing tours of campus and activities through the University Student Union. Photo by Patricia Carrillo.

  • Associate Vice President for Student Access and Support Services Dwayne Cantrell talked to students about the importance of "Telling Your Story," which served as the theme for this year's conference. Photo by Patricia Carrillo.

More than 300 students, primarily African-American, from 13 different high schools across the Los Angeles area and six schools from Oxnard gathered at California State University, Northridge on Feb. 23 for the 13th annual Harambee High School Conference.

The term “Harambee” — Swahili for “pull together” and the official motto of Kenya — encapsulates the Harambee Student Association’s mission: to promote higher education through culture, pride, awareness and action. The association’s goal is to increase the number of African-American students attending CSUN. This year, the theme of the conference was Tell Your Story.

In his opening remarks, Dwayne Cantrell, associate vice president for student access and support services, welcomed students and encouraged them to take full advantage of the conference.

“We put together a program just for you, because we want to have an impact on you,” Cantrell said. “We want you to reflect on who you are. All of you have a story to tell — we want you to tell that story.”

This marked the first time schools from Oxnard participated.

Following the introductory session, students were sorted into groups, and CSUN student leaders guided the teenagers to separate rooms for a number of different activities.

At the University Student Union’s Northridge Center, Birmingham Charter High School students gathered with Van Nuys High School students for a student success activity, where they discussed four aspects about success in college: success, strategies for achieving it, barriers and how their CSUN student leader found success.

The workshop, hosted by communication studies student Ryan Jones, prompted the teens to recognize time management as a vital resource. He also associated  good grades with success. In terms of barriers to success, the high school students — mostly low-income youth who would be first-generation college students — said cost was the top barrier to college success.

Jones shared his story with the group and discussed how he found success in college.

“Some things that helped me find success were being involved on campus, being a member of [CSUN’s Educational Opportunity Programs], as well as forming study groups and building connections,” Jones told the high school students. “Building connections is what helped introduce me to some very rewarding opportunities, enabling me to get where I am today.”

Zainab Jimoh, a student at Van Nuys High School, said she learned a lot from the conference — particularly one most memorable aspect of the event.

“I really like how they got college students to come talk to us about their own experiences,” Jimoh said. “Usually other people are like, ‘Yeah, you can do this. It’s so easy,’ but to see someone talk about their struggles and talk about how they’re persevering — that will always stick with me.”

, ,