It takes a village to send African American students to college!

by Laura Savage

Are you an African American parent or guardian in the San Francisco Bay Area? If so, the San Francisco Alliance of Black School Educators (SFABSE) is sponsoring the Second Annual “Black Family Cradle to College and Career Resource Fair” Saturday, Sept. 19, at San Francisco Unified School District’s Mission High School.

At last year’s fair, a recruiter from Dillard University talks with a student. College admission and even scholarships can be approved “on the spot” at the fair.

The SFABSE has partnered with San Francisco’s “My Brother and Sister’s Keeper” (MBSK), an initiative by the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), the San Francisco Mayor’s Office and the San Francisco Foundation, which aims to develop “cradle-to-career” strategies to support young men and women of color. My Brother’s Keeper is an initiative started by President Barack Obama in September 2014 to encourage community leaders – especially city officials – to create change through policy, programs and partnerships that will improve the outcomes for youth of color.

“It is rare that there are opportunities for Bayview families to have exposure to information that is specifically geared toward their needs and that focuses on how to advocate for their children in the educational system,” says Dr. Mary Bacon, a consultant with SFUSD hired to work on the school district’s CEIS Plan that seeks to address the over-representation of African American students identified in Special Education – specifically as emotionally disturbed.

“The Black Family Cradle to College and Career Day and Resource Fair is designed to bring together Black families from throughout San Francisco and share key resources that will further our children’s academic success,” according to Special Assistant to the Superintendent for African American Achievement and Leadership Landon Dickey.

“This year the event will feature a Southern buffet brunch and the second annual Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Fair with admissions and scholarships awarded on site. In addition, there will be a resource fair with participation from community-based organizations and some of our local businesses, and workshops will be held throughout the day for children and families of children in grades pre-K through 12.”

Mr. Dickey’s focus in San Francisco Unified School District centers around the development and implementation of strategies sought to “disrupt the persistent pattern of inequitable outcomes for African American children” in grades pre-K through 12. He started in the 2014-2015 school year.

As the population of African American residents in San Francisco declines, so do the number of students in the school district. The Alliance of Black School Educators have long made the success of African American students in San Francisco a priority by providing access to resources and consistently celebrating the successes of students and the community. This is one of its many events throughout the year that aims to support the community.

“The Black Family Cradle to College and Career Day and Resource Fair is designed to bring together Black families from throughout San Francisco and share key resources that will further our children’s academic success,” according to Special Assistant to the Superintendent for African American Achievement and Leadership Landon Dickey.

“The event is an opportunity to get to know our Black families directly and establish relationships that will allow us to work together in the future,” says Dickey, “all for the purpose of supporting our children.”

Attendees can look forward to workshops on Early Education, STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics), Discipline and Criminal Justice, College and Career, and Parent-Guardian Involvement.

Diane Gray, executive director for 100% College Prep and an SFABSE member, will be presenting two workshops. The first, “The A-Z of A-G Requirements,” is a workshop to help families understand which courses their students should take to prepare them for college and university admission.

“A-G is the basic education that everyone needs,” says Gray. “The same skills you need for college are the skills you need in career.” The second workshop will focus on “the ins and outs” of college financial aid.

“The message is ‘College is affordable!’ says Gray. Participants will be going over the differences between loans, grants and scholarships. There will be profiles of students for review and fun activities to help dispel the myths around college and financial aid. Families will be going over the basic vocabulary of financial aid.

Students crowd around the registration table at last year’s fair.
Students crowd around the registration table at last year’s fair.

“As a parent and educator, I am delighted the Alliance has joined forces with MBSK to offer this great opportunity to our African American families throughout (San Francisco),” says Virginia Marshall, vice president of the SF Alliance of Black School Educators and Chairperson for the African American Honor Roll. “We are pleased to have corporate sponsors again this year to combine workshops for parents and college admission for students.”

That’s right. College admission for students!

“More than 30 Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) admissions directors will join us from across the country for our College Fair,” says Marshall. “Last year, we had students who were admitted ‘on the spot’ and received huge scholarships. One student received more than $50,000 in scholarships!”

Marshall, who is also the facilitator for the Citywide Tutorial Program, recommends that high school seniors bring their high school transcript, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement and their ACT and/or SAT test scores. Representative from HBCUs like Morehouse College, Spelman College, Howard University, Alabama A&M University, Lincoln University, Tuskegee University and others will be present.

“We’re going to have some free resources for participants that provide assistance academically and for financial aid,” says Gray.

SFUSD students have the opportunity to get a laptop computer from Comcast. There will be workshops offered for parents and guardians, but everyone is encouraged to attend. The event runs 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Breakfast and lunch will be served!

Gray feels “it’s important, because our community, our families, our students – they need to see examples of folks who also live in the community who are in the know and who work in the community. There is something special historically when teachers live in the community and they are part of the community.”

San Francisco Unified School District has been struggling to serve its Black students. This reality has propelled the Black educators and the SFABSE to take the responsibility of supporting students by the reins. The urgency to improve the outcomes for Black students has led to increased support of initiatives that seek to engage, educate and support the efforts of Black families in San Francisco.

SFUSD students have the opportunity to get a laptop computer from Comcast. There will be workshops offered for parents and guardians, but everyone is encouraged to attend. The event runs 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

“I have been particularly concerned about the overrepresentation of African American students in special education, in the disciplinary system and in school programs that do not prepare them adequately to take advantage of the opportunities available to them after high school,” says Bacon. “The more African American families are educated about their rights, financial and other opportunities available to support higher education and have the skills to address their children’s needs in the system, the easier it will be for educators within the system to ensure their success.”

“There is no replacement for seeing role models in the community,” says Diane Gray. “I am happy to stay here in the community where I live and work. Our community is really driven by relationships. You can’t come to the table with this corporate-model attitude. That’s not how we get down. It’s important that I be involved, so they know where they can get support.

Black Family College Resource Fair flier 091915“The Black community is often unaware of resources like scholarships, college readiness and mentoring opportunities. The Black Family Cradle to College and Career Resource Fair brings the resources and support for Black families to San Francisco.

“Oftentimes people come into our community who have no idea who they’re serving,” says Gray.

Gray added that the event tries to bring the resources to the community so they have access. It is important to see Black and Brown faces who are there to support, people they can trust.

Mayor Edwin Lee, SFUSD representatives, community organizations and many more will be present to encourage young people and their families. There will be workshops offered for every grade level in the areas of early education, STEM, overall school success, post-secondary, discipline and criminal justice.

There are two sessions with five workshops each. Each session is an hour long. A resource fair for families to access local organizations and national support systems will also take place during the fair.

The Black Family Cradle to College and Career Resource Fair is Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at Mission High School, 3750 18th St., San Francisco, CA 94114. For more information or questions, call 415-516-5247 or email phuv@sfusd.edu.

Laura Savage is a Bay Area-based freelance writer. She can be reached at lsavage26@gmail.com.