Be Your Story: CREATE Supports SDUSD African-American Achievement Summit

On May 29, hundreds of San Diego Unified School District high school students gathered at San Diego City College for the first annual “Be Your Story!” African-American Achievement Summit. The event was developed to support high school students as they prepare for and transition to post-secondary life.

Hosted by San Diego City College, the event was spearheaded by San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) in partnership with San Diego City College (SDCC), San Diego Mesa College, San Diego Workforce Partnership, the UMOJA Community and Hermanos Unidos Brothers United (HUBU), Movement BE, Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation and UC San Diego’s Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence (CREATE). Approximately 650 students attended the event.

According to San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), the summit was developed to engage students, mostly in 11 and 12 grades, in conversations about their education and work plans after graduating from high school. The event connected students with valuable resources via workshops offered by local colleges, universities and career organizations to help students identify and manage their post high school plans. It also provided an opportunity to match African-American high school students to “near peer” mentors who could share their experiences about community college or four-year university life as an African-American student.

As a longstanding partner of SDUSD, UC San Diego’s CREATE was invited by the district to help support the event by serving on the planning committee and by securing workshop facilitators and near peer mentors for four-year college bound students.

“UC San Diego CREATE was pleased to coordinate the four-year bound student portion of the day,” said Susan Yonezawa, assistant director at CREATE. “We were excited our campus resources and the resources of other public, four-year universities joined with us to support the African-American students in San Diego Unified. We hope to be here again next year!”

As busloads of students arrived at the gym, event keynote speaker and Master of Ceremonies Nate Howard, founder of Movement BE (pictured above), and “DJ Rob” kept the crowd engaged as students watched a drumline band performance and Step Show by students from SDCC Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated. Dr. Erin M. Charlens, professor, counselor and Umoja community program coordinator for San Diego City College, welcomed the crowd and invited everyone to join in singing the Black National Anthem performed by Susan Lily Perkins.

After performing an opening ritual to bless the event and all participants, Charlens introduced SDCC President Dr. Ricky Shabazz, SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten and San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll. Each welcomed the students and shared a few words about the challenges and opportunities they experienced in their own life as they worked towards their goals.

The event framework, “Be Your Story!” was inspired by Howard’s Movement BE, a non-profit organization that encourages young people to tell their story through creative writing and public speaking. Brittany Jasper, a senior at Morse High School who had attended a previous Movement BE event, delivered her spoken word “story” to the packed gym.

After a powerful keynote performance by Howard, students and mentors were escorted from the gym by SDCC volunteers and across the street to the City College campus to attend morning and afternoon workshops. Groups of 20-25 students were assigned to two- or four-year college near peer mentors who provided a personal connection and served as a guide for the high school students as they made their way through the day. The students were grouped by self-reported post-high school plans, and so groups were made up of students from all area SDUSD high schools.

Quincey Penn, director of the San Diego State University Black Resource Center (left), had workshop students on their feet to address questions on what it takes to succeed in college.

Thirty-two workshops were developed to meet the needs of two- and four-year college bound students, students entering the military and the workforce, and to spark early post-high school planning for juniors and sophomores. The morning workshops featured “Find your Story” topics and self-reflective activities to help students meet post-high school goals. The afternoon workshops focused on “Tell Your Story” activities designed to help students express themselves in college and beyond.

“Be Your Story!” African-American Achievement Summit Workshops for Four-year College Bound Students

  • Exploring STEM for College and Career; Gentry Patrick, Professor, Division of Biological Sciences, UC San Diego
  • UC San Diego Black Resource Center Student Success Snapshot; Porsia Curry, Director, Black Resource Center (BRC), UC San Diego
  • Living Your Best Life: Black and College Bound; Akyia Westley, , Daniela Padilla, Program Coordinator, and Cynthia Sanchez, K-14 Academic Preparation Specialist, Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP), UC San Diego
  • Real Life Scenarios to Save the Soul; Marcus Thompson, Program Coordinator, TRiO Upward Bound, UC San Diego
  • Summer Melt: Issues that Can Prevent You from Going to College in Fall 2018; Linda Doughty, Cal-SOAP, Director, San Diego and Imperial Counties, UC San Diego
  • Imposter Syndrome; Makeba Jones, Assistant Teaching Professor, UC San Diego; Tekara Gainey, RISE Fellow; Beto Vasquez, K-14 Academic Preparation Specialist, UC San Diego CREATE and RISE Fellow
  • Identity, what is it good for? Fnann Keflezighi {she/her/hers}, Assistant Director of Residential Life, Thurgood Marshall College, UC San Diego
  • SDSU Harambee Scholars Program; Quincey Penn, Director, Black Resource Center, San Diego State University
  • Overcoming Challenges for Incoming Freshman at CSUSM; Rosa Barr-Williams ~she/her/hers~, Admissions Officer/Coordinator of Strategic Partnership, California State University San Marcos
  • College Survival 101; Mary Fisher Taylor, Doctoral Student, Department of Education Studies, UC San Diego
  • Money Matters Strategies for Success; Mary Fisher Taylor, Doctoral Student, Department of Education Studies, UC San Diego
  • For two-year transfer students: What’s Needed to Transfer to a UC; Timothy Borch, Assistant Director, Transfer Student Services; Roberta Camarena, Interim Assistant Director, Strategic Initiatives, Office of Admissions, UC San Diego

The UC San Diego Office of Admissions was an exhibitor at the “Be Your Story!” Summit Expo and Resource Fair at Harry West Gym.

The day ended with students returning to the gym for the Summit Expo and Resource Fair. After climbing into the bleachers to wait for buses to take them back to their schools, Howard closed the event by inviting all 650 students to always remember to “be their story” as they begin the next chapter of their lives.

For additional information on the “Be Your Story!” African-American Achievement Summit, contact Susan Yonezawa, assistant director, CREATE, UC San Diego.