“Let’s not kill ourselves with gangs and drugs, ’cause not only can we survive, but we can do it well,” said Faith Goins to an enthusiastic audience of her peers from across the nation.
Most of them had met a mere three days before and were now cheering each other’s performances of original poetry, African song and dance and piano.
Goins, a student from Aurora Central High School, participated in CSU’s Black Issues Forum, which brought 40 black high school juniors to stay in campus dormitories June 17 through Saturday to research and discuss issues unique to the black community.
Friday’s “Open Mic Night” provided the select group of students a chance to cement connections and express cultural creativity before Saturday’s presentations, which were the culmination of three days of research into the lives of CSU students.
“These types of programs are really good for kids,” said Bobby Browning, assistant director for the Office of Admissions. He added that it was difficult to choose only 40 participants from 75 applicants this year, the most the program has ever seen.
“We had to raise the GPA to 3.5,” Browning said of the admission requirements. “Students have to be college eligible.”
Anna Arevalos, director of Undergraduate Recruitment, said this year’s program was expanded by a day so students would have more time for research and informal interaction with current CSU students who were past BIF participants.
Students chose one of four topics to research, working in groups of 10 to prepare for a 30-minute presentation. Browning hires four college students to assist.
Nathan Brown, of Overland High School in Aurora is researching, “The Importance of a College Education for African Americans.”
The university offers a $10,000 scholarship for program participants who choose to attend CSU, Brown said.
“Being here, seeing dorm rooms, definitely puts a boost on it,” said Brown, who plans to study engineering, but is also considering Florida A&M for college.
Brown’s friend from Overland High, Eriq Shipp, wants to be a dentist, but will pursue a bachelor’s degree in business first. He’s not sure if he’ll choose CSU, but he praised the Black Issues Forum.
“I like that they keep us busy and that they’re giving us the thank-yous,” Shipp said. “It’s hard to get recognized for what you’re doing.”
Alexandria Grant of Dallas echoed Shipp’s sentiments.
“I want to prove to the whole society that black women aren’t just out there having babies and black men aren’t all going to jail. We can do valuable things in society,” said Grant, who plans to study political science.
Lawrence Martin, from Chicago, Ill., wants to be a pharmacist and help bring affordable health insurance to low-income consumers, especially those in the black community. Martin said his participation in the Black Issues Forum has made him want to stop procrastinating and get started on his plans to promote a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease when he goes back to his high school.
Days in the program are activity-packed starting at 7:45 a.m. with breakfast in Parmelee Hall, and proceeding to library research, small group discussions and leadership workshops, or speakers on topics informing students on how to plan for college and what CSU has to offer. Finally, at 9 p.m., networking or a social activity caps the day’s learning.
Though Grant said the days are long, “It’s not work. It’s just bonding.”
“I came in a little timid,” she said, “but it’s maturing me. I’m finding out what qualities I possess.”
Proud parents and grandparents attended Saturday morning to support and observe student presentations in the Lory Student Center. Tracy Lovett was the assistant director of Admissions at CSU when she worked with others to develop BIF. Sixteen years later she sat in the packed East Ballroom to watch her daughter, Zuri Randell, a student at Colorado Academy in Denver, deliver her group presentation. In Lovett’s family, CSU is a tradition. She earned her bachelor’s degree at CSU and her father also did his graduate studies here.
“It’s a blessing that the university has committed all these years to this program,” Lovett said. “I feel very fortunate.”
Staff writer Shari Blackman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.