For 18 years, Cal Poly Pomona has partnered with predominantly African American faith-based organizations in the local community as part of the California State University (CSU) Super Sunday initiative to share the power of a college education.
This year, President Soraya M. Coley and Provost Jennifer Brown joined a host of campus representatives at two Pomona churches on Feb. 26 to share their personal stories and important college-related information to inspire families, and to advance access, opportunity and success for African American students.
In light of the pandemic, each leader sought to confront doubts about the value of higher education and Cal Poly Pomona’s polytechnic experience.
“Lately — across the country — we’ve heard disheartening myths that a college degree isn’t really worth it,” Coley stated at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. “However, I can assure you that it is the best pathway to careers that are secure, rewarding, well compensated and in demand.”
More Opportunities, Less Debt
Of the jobs created in the United States in the past few years, 9 out of 10 went to individuals with a college degree. By 2030, it’s projected that 40 percent of all California job openings will require a degree.
While national college costs continue to soar, CSU degrees remain some of the most affordable in the country. About 80 percent of CSU students receive financial aid, and more than 50 percent graduate debt free.
“College is an engine of economic and social opportunity. But we need to ensure that the opportunity of a college education and its many benefits are available to all seeking one. That is why my colleagues and I are here today,” Coley said.
Championing Equity at CPP
Brown shared a similar message in her visit to Mt. Sinai Church of God in Christ in Pomona, emphasizing CPP’s commitment to building an inclusive, supportive and diverse community.
“Based on feedback from students and employees, we know we have more to do to fulfill our value of inclusion, particularly in our support of our African American community,” Brown said. “At Cal Poly Pomona, we take collective responsibility for creating this reality, and have taken swift action to address and dismantle the racism that prevents us from building an inclusive and diverse community.”
Last fall, Cal Poly Pomona launched the CSU’s first Black Thriving Initiative with the goal of supporting the well-being and success of all CPP’s members, including African American students, faculty and staff. The initiative provides a way to heal and build consciousness, capacity and accountability for realizing the community that Cal Poly Pomona aims to be.
The university’s efforts complement the CSU’s Grad Initiative 2025 to eliminate graduation rate equity gaps between underserved students and their peers.
Our Many Paths to Greatness
Before concluding their messages, both speakers shared the story of Cal Poly Pomona graduate Avia Bateman (’22, psychology). Despite experiencing homelessness during middle school and a terrible car accident in high school, Bateman was intent on attending college.
At CPP, Bateman was an honors psychology student, worked a job and excelled on the track and field team while also graduating in four years — with no student loan debt. She credits her mentors and supportive faculty and staff as key to her success.
Now, Bateman is enrolled in a doctorate program at the University of Texas at Austin, studying school psychology to develop mental-health programs in underserved school districts.
Both Coley and Brown said that Bateman is an inspirational example of what can be accomplished through determination and hard work, as well as support from our university and community.
In closing, Coley affirmed the group that higher education belongs to everyone.
“Whether you are a young student with college still years away, an incoming freshman, a community college transfer or even someone who started college and never finished, the CSU is ready to help you succeed,” Coley said. “We want you on our campuses.”
Each year, CSU leaders visit nearly 100 churches across California as part of the Super Sunday initiative. Visit the CSU Super Sunday website to learn more.