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Super Sunday: A College Degree Is the ‘Golden Ticket’ for Black and African American Students

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High school senior Keith Williams applied to several California State University campuses, but Cal State Fullerton is his No. 1 choice to earn a college degree.

“It’s a prestigious school and reflects what I want in a university,” said Williams, holding a stack of CSUF recruitment materials.

Williams, of San Pedro, wants to study criminal justice or sociology and one day become an attorney.

“I want to go to college to have the opportunity to make a name for myself and do something bigger than myself — something to make a change.”

Williams was among the youth who attended the CSU’s Super Sunday on Feb. 25 at Christ Our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Irvine. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Ralph E. Williamson, welcomed CSUF President Sylvia Alva and the university’s outreach and recruitment team to the service.

For over a decade, the CSU has partnered with predominantly Black and African American faith-based organizations across the state to host Super Sunday in February to advance Black student success and excellence.

Alva addressed families following the morning youth service about the value of a college degree. She relayed that a CSU degree is accessible, affordable and offers opportunities for social mobility. 

At the CSU, most students receive financial aid and have their full college tuition covered by non-loan assistance, resulting in graduating with zero debt, Alva said.

“We’ve heard rumblings and rumors that a college degree isn’t worth pursuing and that it’s easy to get by without one,” said Alva, the daughter of immigrants and the first in her family to graduate from college. 

“I know many people, including my parents, found rewarding jobs, worked hard and formed a good life without earning a college degree. But times have changed in California, and so will the jobs of the future. One thing is certain: A college degree continues to be the golden ticket to lifelong growth, security and opportunity, and it’s the best gift that you can give yourself and your family.”

Super Sunday 2024
CSUF President Sylvia Alva and the university’s outreach and recruitment team partnered with Christ Our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Irvine to spread the message of the value of a college degree.

Alva was among CSU leaders who developed a plan to make sure Black and African American students are supported as they pursue higher education. Alva said the CSU is investing $10 million to expand student services and support programs and resource centers so Black and African American students thrive.

The president also shared her personal story about how a chance visit with civil rights activist Rosa Parks, an AME church member, inspired her leadership journey. She met Parks on a bus ride to the hotel after Parks spoke at a conference she was attending.

“We had a nice conversation. She was kind and thoughtful, and even her petite stature belied the monumental impact she had on American history. When I got back to my hotel room, I began to reflect on the historical impact she has had on our country and our nation’s civil rights journey,” Alva said. 

Alva relayed that Parks helped her see that leaders can be kind, thoughtful, powerful — and female and equity-minded. 

“She helped me see that we can lead with the principles of social justice and equity in our own authentic way.”

Alva added that during the span of her career, she had often been “the only Latina in the room,” but that has become less common and the door has opened for her.

“It is up to us to make sure it stays open,” Alva said, reminding parents and their children that Cal State Fullerton’s doors are always open to them.

“We need your voices and experiences to make us better and to achieve inclusive excellence,” she said. 

CSUF business administration major Seyi Alli, president of the Black Student Union and co-president of the Nigerian Student Association, attended Super Sunday for the first time. 

Alli, studying entertainment and hospitality management, said it is a transformative opportunity for families to learn firsthand about what the university offers Black students.

“It’s important for students to know that we’re here to support them and have resources to help them feel like they belong and have a community at Cal State Fullerton,” Alli said.

Debra Cano Ramos