​​​​​​The 12th annual Pastor's Breakfast unveiled the next chapter for the African American Initiative.

Every year, church leaders from throughout Southern California, along with California State University campus presidents and system leadership, convene at the Chancellor's Office for a Pastor's Breakfast – an event where pastors and CSU leaders collaborate on best practices for enrolling and retaining more African-Americans in college.

Attendees of the breakfast on May 11 witnessed an important announcement about the future of the CSU African American Initiative as they reflected on the initiative's past.

"A focus for us is helping more African-American students be successful and earn a degree," said Loren Blanchard, CSU's executive vice chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs. "Our presidents and university leadership, led by Chancellor Timothy P. White, are working with each of our campuses to ensure that we close the achievement gap."

In an effort to increase graduation rates among African-American students, the CSU Chancellor's Office is empowering all 23 of its campuses to continue the legacy of the African American Initiative in each of their surrounding communities. The Chancellor's Office will be allocating grant funds for campuses to develop strategic partnerships with local faith-based and community organizations, expand outreach efforts and reach more students.

Since its launch, the African American Initiative has been facilitated by the CSU Chancellor's Office. Program funding, development and community partnerships are all centrally managed by the Long Beach-based office. The initiative's shift from being a centralized, coordinated effort to being a more localized, campus-based effort is an essential step towards meeting Graduation Initiative 2025's goal of closing achievement gaps among California's underserved communities. Campuses will have greater opportunity to bolster relationships with community partners at the local level as they serve as the main contact for their partners.

"Our goal at the CSU is to further deepen our relationship with churches," said Blanchard.​ ​

12 Years of Growth

The Pastor's Breakfast kicked off with Chancellor White honoring the trailblazers of the African American Initiative, Dr. Jaqueline Mimms and Dr. Barbara Young. The two women played an integral role in designing the original framework of the Initiative and helped it evolve for more than a decade.CSU 1442.jpg

"This is a journey we have taken together for the past 12 years, yet this journey does not end," said White. "It continues as we take new paths and explore new roads. In that spirit, I want to thank two incredible guides, two people who have helped us move forward – Dr. Mimms and Dr. Young."

Founded in 2005, the African American Initiative began when Young took then-CSU Chancellor Charles Reed to West Angeles Church in Los Angeles. Serving as director of CSU External Relations at the time, Young introduced Reed to her personal network of church leaders and the ideas for Super Sunday and Super Saturday emerged. From there, deep ties developed between the CSU Chancellor's Office and the community of South Los Angeles. Church, civic, business and education leaders vowed to work together to educate African-American students and parents about the importance of college education. As word spread about the partnerships, community leaders at the Temple Baptist Church in Oakland were inspired by the work being done in So​uth LA and the initiative soon became statewide.

When Mimms began serving as associate vice president for Enrollment Management at CSU Bakersfield, she added the Summer Algebra Institute to the African American Initiative. The Summer Algebra Institute worked hand in hand with Super Sunday, where churches host math instruction and mentoring with a cultural emphasis. The Summer Algebra Institute aims to have more African-American middle school students meet or surpass their grade level in math. The program builds students' skills and confidence in resolving math problems and, ultimately, improve their chances of being college ready.

The number of CSU's faith-based partners has grown dramatically, starting with 20 church partners in 2005 and growing to 113 church partners in 2017. More than 1 million students and their families have been reached through the various programs offered by the initiative. By partnering with churches serving predominantly African-American congregations, the initiative's mission is to increase college preparation, enrollments and graduation rates for African-American students.

The Six Core Areas of the African American Initiative

"In fall 2015, only nine percent of African-American students completed their degrees within a four-year period and 42 percent within six years," said Blanchard. "In fall 2016, 12 percent of African American students graduated within four years and 44 percent within 6 years. While we certainly celebrate the fact that the needle is moving in the right direction, we also must address the fact that our current efforts are not impacting students in the quickest way possible to ensure they are graduating."

In a call to action, Blanchard addressed the room full of church and campus leaders to support the six core areas that will elevate the efforts of the African American Initiative and prepare more students for college success. These core areas include: 

  • Making sure students are aware of FAFSA requirements and are filing it on time
  • Ensuring high school subject requirements are being met so students are eligible to apply for college
  • Preparing students for the SAT and ACT beginning no later than ninth grade
  • Rethinking our approach to developmental education to increase the number of African-American students who are prepared for college-level English and/or math
  • Providing students the knowledge and understanding to transfer efficiently from a community college to a CSU campus
  • Establishing programming that better connects students from their church to their nearest CSU campus

Through the collective goals of the CSU and California's faith-based organizations, the future of the African American Initiative will create deeper, more meaningful and more impactful relationships between college campuses and the citizens from some of the state's underserved communities.

Blanchard closed the Pastor's Breakfast by thanking everyone in attendance for supporting the completion of all CSU students.

"We have accomplished much together in the last 12 years, but we have a lot of work still ahead of us," said Blanchard. "I am excited to continue our long-standing partnership and to work to build additional layers through more campus programming for your ministries."​