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Super Sunday: Connecting with Black Congregations

‘We Want You, We Respect You, We Need You’
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Every year during Black History Month, President Fram Virjee, faculty and staff members from Cal State Fullerton visit African American churches in Southern California to encourage congregants and their children to attend college and, specifically, Cal State Fullerton.

This year, Virjee spoke to the congregation of Christ Our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Irvine at the invitation of Pastor Ralph E. Williamson.

The message was simple: “Come to Cal State Fullerton. We want you, we respect you, we need you.”

Virjee pointed out the long history between the Black community and Cal State Fullerton. CSUF was the first university on the West Coast with a Black woman as president, Jewel Plummer Cobb. She was the granddaughter of a freed slave and when she was pursuing her college degree. She was banned from the dormitories at the University of Michigan because of the color of her skin. Today, the residence halls at Cal State Fullerton are named in her honor.

Her successor, Milton A. Gordon, served as president of the university for more than two decades. As a college student, his academic journey began with being denied access to certain academic buildings because of his race. Today, an academic building on Cal State Fullerton’s campus is named in his honor.

“That is the legacy of Cal State Fullerton,” Virjee said. “We continue to uphold it with a stated and demonstrated commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity.

Super Sunday 2022

“A college degree can unlock life-changing and transformative opportunities,” he continued. “For you, your family and your community. This year’s event is more meaningful than ever. I don’t need to tell you that over the past two years, our communities — and especially the Black community — has been deeply affected … not only by the pandemic but by financial uncertainty, deepening inequities, devastating acts of racial injustice and widening divisions across our country … and these challenges have followed us into a new year.

“But there is a path forward to a brighter future. Of that I am certain.

“I know three things: First, Cal State Fullerton is here to partner with you every step of the way to make sure you are prepared and can afford college. Second, you can succeed at Cal State Fullerton whether you’re enrolling for the first time, you’re the first in your family to attend college or you’re returning after some time away. Finally, we are an engine of opportunity to power your future prosperity and ensure lifelong success.”

Virjee also pointed out that nearly 80% of CSU undergraduates receive non-loan financial aid and more than half of  CSU undergraduates graduate with zero college loan debt.

“As I look out into the audience, I know this congregation is full of men and women — young and old — who have the intelligence, determination and heart to succeed and graduate from college — whether you know it or not. We are all part of the same community — a community that stands together and thrives so that all the diverse people of this great state have the opportunity to attend and succeed in college.”

Valerie Orleans