A group of people met on a Saturday morning to tackle education barriers

May 4, 2021

By Walter Ryce

A person could be forgiven for mistaking the Super Saturday Design Day event that occurred on May 1 for the CSU’s Super Sunday events. They are similar in design. But there are differences.

For 16 years, the CSU’s Super Sunday events have seen campus officials across the state visit Black churches and address congregations to spread the word about higher education. They are focused on preparing young Black people for college.

CSUMB’s iteration has happened annually at local churches for more than a decade, but in 2018 CSUMB began hosting them on campus as Super Saturday. The 2021 version took place online during Black History Month in February.

What occurred from 10 a.m. to noon on May 1, however, was the very first Super Saturday Design Day. It was dubbed "Your Voice, Your Vision: Finding Our Rhythm."

“This event is part of our year round efforts to engage and connect with the Black community,” said Vanessa Lopez-Littleton, associate professor and chair of Health, Human Services, and Public Policy. “The event grew out of the CSU Super Sunday event.”

It was billed as a forum for the CSUMB community, students, alumni and the greater community to come together and talk about removing barriers, strengthening pipelines and “designing” pathways for underrepresented young people from across the tri-county region to attend CSUMB — hence the name Design Day.

Co-sponsored by the Office of Admissions and the Office of Inclusive Excellence, it was infused with music, punctuated with prizes, and moderated by Glodean Champion, a coach, educator, speaker and storyteller. Kim Guanzon and Brian Corpening were involved as team leaders, and about 65 participants attended according to Lopez-Littleton.

Aided by a full roster of faculty and students, they tackled issues and questions such as what services and resources are needed for student success; engaging Black men and men of color; and the role of sports in college selection.

Much of the idea exchange happened in breakout rooms moderated by CSUMB faculty and staff members Purvi Shah, Matthew Daines, Jacinto Salazar, Dennis Kombe, Vivian Waldrup-Patterson, Maria Bellumori, and Emily Schmit.

They captured key comments, including:

  • Having sports such as football can be really helpful in making the campus welcoming to Black students
  • Programs such as GEAR Up, AVID, and PUENTE are very important for support. Schools do a good job of sending information out, but parents need constant reminders.
  • From a parental point of view…one’s document status is a scary scenario to try to understand how that will affect the student in being able to make it to college, let alone pay for the program.
  • If the resources can be translated in Spanish, that would help reach more Spanish speaking parents.
  • There are less financial aid resources for students whose parents are considered middle class.
  • The Center for African American Students has the potential to be a transformative support mechanism to help recruit and sustain our African American students to stay and finish their program at CSUMB.
  • Encourage faculty to come out to the communities and engage with k-12, churches, etc.
  • [One participant] mentioned the need for constant code switching with how we look, how we speak, and how we show up even in spaces like this conversation requires additional effort and energy
  • Although CSUMB had student organizations for female Black students back in the day, such as Melanin Queens and sororities, those groups no longer exist, leaving Black female students disconnected from each other.
  • Black students are not a monolithic group. Black students bring different life experiences from areas they live and come from (e.g., Oakland, Los Angeles, predominantly white high schools, etc.)

“The breakout rooms provided us with an opportunity to explore some of the barriers and opportunities that exist,” Lopez-Littleton said. “I was excited to see our campus community come out and support us in understanding what we need to do to develop stronger pipelines into CSUMB.”

The hope is that Black students and young people of color will see the engagement and the work happening at CSUMB and feel welcome to join and be a part of it.