As I was reflecting on the importance of CSU's Super Sunday, what came to mind was an experience I had meeting an African American great-grandmother who introduced me to her 8-year-old great-grandson that she and her husband were raising. She had heard my message about the increasing value of a college degree and the commitment of the CSU system to access and opportunity. She wanted reassurance that if her great-grandson continued to excel in school, he might one day achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut. She also wanted advice on courses he should take to prepare him for college. She and her husband were in their 70s and had few resources but were trying to set aside some financial support for his education. It was clear to me that their hopes and dreams are the same ones that we all have for our children – not just a better life, but a life where our children can achieve their potential, reaching the stars and beyond.

The Super Sunday initiative, now in its 13th year, represents a critical partnership between the CSU and African American churches throughout the state to encourage our youth to pursue higher education. We are appreciative of the connection with many churches throughout the years that have welcomed us into their congregations and facilitated our reaching more than 1 million students and families since its inception.

Key to this initiative is the clear message of promoting educational opportunity.  Over the years, I and scores of other CSU emissaries have visited congregations across California to provide information about the system, entry requirements, financial aid and academic programs. We have answered questions about effectively bridging between schools, community colleges and the CSU. And we have worked to improve preparation and graduation rates of students so that they are successful in earning their degrees in a timely manner to be able to move toward their post-university goals.

But beyond gaining knowledge about the CSU, I believe the most impactful messages at Super Sunday, as reflected in my engagement with that great-grandmother, have been those engendering hope, supporting aspirations, and extending a message that you are welcome in the CSU and we will support you in the pursuit of your educational dreams.   

 These messages are not only being extended to the typical college-age students, or those in the K-12 pipeline, or the community college transfers, but also to the adult re-entry returning students. It is a message that highlights our campuses as the California engine of social mobility.  

The 23 campuses of the California State University system seek to proactively reach out to underserved communities and multicultural populations, and we are committed to developing partnerships that are aimed at increasing the college-going rate. We know that education offers enormous benefits to the individual and can be transformational in positively impacting the family, community and society. We also acknowledge that much work remains to be done. It is projected by the Public Policy Institute of California that the state will need over 1 million more college graduates by 2030 in order to keep pace with the changing economy. We can ill afford to leave talent on the cutting-room floor of society. The CSU is ready to meet this challenge and will be the major pipeline for that future growth. And we must be intentional in assuring that our African American youth remain a focus as we work across all communities to promote an inclusive educational experience.

Super Sunday is a groundbreaking program that, at its core, helps CSU cultivate a relationship with children, high school students, their families and adults as a catalyst for deeper engagement. It's an opportunity for the CSU system and campus leaders to share our message directly with underserved populations in their communities where they live, work and worship. It demonstrates our pledge to accessibility and our value of the religious and cultural institutions that have been a mainstay for so many.

Our direct engagement helps to break down misconceptions, acknowledge common and unique challenges, and make ourselves approachable. Most importantly, we can communicate how a degree in higher education is attainable and how we can join in making the dreams for all children a reality.