Black Student Success Week gets system-wide support in California

By Lauren McDermott

Community colleges across California participated in a week’s worth of advocacy and celebration in recognition of Black Student Success Week, held from April 24-28.

Now in its fourth year, Black Student Success Week expanded its offerings and resources beyond those that serve practitioners and policymakers to include current and prospective community college students. More than 5,700 participants registered across five days for The Black Hour webinars, which delivered actionable strategies for higher education professionals to create a more equitable ecosystem at their campuses.

Black and African American enrollment has disproportionately declined in community colleges from peak enrollment in the 2010-11 school year, resulting in nearly 300,000 fewer Black students, according to Kelley Ditzel, senior affiliate with HCM Strategists, a higher education research firm. However, other data do not support the idea that Black students are going to other institutions. During this same period, there were no meaningful gains at for-profit or four-year institutions.

Black Student Success Week Chair and President/CEO of Compton College, Keith Curry, said this year’s effort was particularly impactful thanks to the buy-in across the state, the generosity of the sponsors and the genuine enthusiasm that emerged from community college practitioners.

“Seeing the widespread support of Black Student Success Week this year was incredibly heartening,” Curry said. “Black and African American students or would-be students need our support to ensure they can access the education they need to create bright futures for themselves, their families and their communities.”

“It is inspiring to see that more than 5,500 people participated in Black Student Success Week this year,” said California Community Colleges Interim Chancellor Daisy Gonzales. “The webinars provided our system and allies an opportunity to listen to students and learn new strategies to ensure that our Black and African American students are on a path to success. The outpouring of support re-energizes us and commits us to redesign systems and structures for Black student success.”

Webinars touched on a broad range of racial-justice topics during the week, including the support of racially-equitable policy-making, transitioning to the workforce and livable wages, and programming for Black student success at the institutional level.

“Another successful Black Student Success Week is in the books! I was moved by the wealth of wisdom shared during The Black Hour daily webinars and the sincere love practitioners across the state expressed for our Black students,” said Las Positas College Black Cultural Resource Center Coordinator Carolyn Scott. “All this emotion was summed up beautifully in the phenomenal heartfelt closing remarks by the Queen CEOs!”

Black Student Success Week partners included the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, the Campaign for College Opportunity and the Community College League of California. Although most of the participants hailed from the Golden State, Black Student Success Week featured speakers from the United States Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Labor and drew support from the City Colleges of Chicago.

“This impactful week of programming showcased the commitment to student success by community college leaders at every level,” said Larry Galizio, Community College League of California President and CEO. “More than that, Black Student Success Week elevated practical strategies and advocacy efforts to ensure that we are not just talking about how we help Black and African American students but making strides to strengthen local communities.”

The hope is that next year, Black Student Success Week will be more nationally recognized, Curry said.

“We need to keep emphasizing these conversations about racial justice and equity in higher education,” said Curry. “A higher education is not an equalizer if equity isn’t a part of the equation. Those of us who work in community colleges must never stop asking ourselves, ‘How can I make my institution more accessible to underrepresented students?’ We must continue to challenge ourselves and our peers within the community college in that way, or we will never see meaningful change.”

Black Student Success Week is held annually on the last week of April. Please mark your calendar for the 2024 Black Student Success Week, scheduled for April 22-26, 2024.

Lauren McDermott

is the public relations and marketing manager with 25th Hour Communications Inc.