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  • Expo opens college doors for thousands of students of color


    Students from across the region were given important information and support for taking the next step into higher education during the Black College Expo on Saturday, Nov. 23, at Sacramento State. (Sacramento State/Paul Le)

    By Cynthia Hubert

    For more than 3,000 high school and college transfer students who attended the Black College Expo at Sacramento State on Saturday, Nov. 23, it was a time for asking questions, gathering information and getting jazzed about the future.

    Sac State, as well as other universities and colleges from across the nation, put its best foot forward, offering prospective students support and information about academic majors and career options – and even some Hornets swag. Participating institutions made pitches for why they were the right place for the young people of color seeking the next educational level.

    “It’s a chance to actually interact with lots of colleges, to reach out and see what they’re all about,” said Caylen Walker, a Christian Brothers student who is considering attending Sac State. “I’m learning about what I need to do to get into college and different paths I can take.”

    Hakeem Croom (center), program coordinator for the University's MLK Center, shares a light moment during the Black College Expo. (Sacramento State/Selena Celeste Thomas)

    The nonprofit National College Resources Foundation (NCRF) sponsored the expo, the second such event on campus this year. Representatives of dozens of colleges and universities attended, including those from California State University and University of California, community colleges and historically black institutions of higher learning.

    The events are designed to help students and families navigate the college admissions process and promote the importance of higher education.

    “We want to connect with as many students and parents as possible to help them understand the resources that are available to elevate their lives,” said Theresa Price, NCRF founder and executive director.

    For Sacramento State, the expo was an opportunity to attract more African American students and help them succeed, said Marcellene Watson-Derbigny, associate vice president for Student Retention & Academic Success.

    Fewer than 6 percent of Sac State students are African American, statistics show, compared to an overall population of 13 percent in Sacramento. African American students also graduate at lower rates than white students, an achievement gap that Sac State is trying to reduce with various educational equity programs.

    At Saturday’s event, students and their guardians milled around the University Union, where they perused tables offering information about individual colleges, academic choices, athletics and financial aid. Among the participants were larger schools including UC Davis and Fresno State and smaller, private institutions such as Wiley College in Texas. Some colleges posted signs boasting that qualified students could be accepted on the spot. Representatives of the Peace Corps, the California Highway Patrol, and military branches, among other entities, also attended the event.

    Students and their families listened in on a variety of seminars with titles including "How to Find $$$ for College," "How to Prepare for College and Be Successful," and "411 for the Student Athlete." Some participants also toured the campus.

    President Robert S. Nelsen, who has made inclusion and diversity a University priority, mingled at the expo with young people he described as “the next generation of leaders from our region, including many future Hornets.”

    Phillip Long brought to the event his granddaughter Jordan, who at her grandfather's suggestion is considering attending a historically black college.

    “I grew up with people who believed that if you want a college education, you’re trying to be something you’re not. You’re not ‘keeping it real,’” Phillip Long said. He wanted to show Jordan that “it’s possible to go to a school where you see lots of people who look like you, and they want to achieve” a college degree and professional success.

    Jordan, who attends Armijo High School in Fairfield, said the Sac State event helped “open my eyes to lots of different colleges,” one of which she hopes to attend to study psychology.

    Caylen Walker’s parents, Sandra Talbott and Eric Walker, encouraged him to gather as much information as possible at the event.

    “I want him to see what it takes to get admitted, so he understands the process,” said Talbott, a Sac State alum.

    She and Walker support whatever college choice their son makes, she said.

    “But of course, I would love it if he went to Sac State.” 

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