Black Collegians: creating opportunities for student success

With over thirty thousand students at Santa Monica College, it is sometimes difficult for students to be able to collaborate with similar peers. Fortunately enough there are groups on campus for people with similar interests, ideas, even cultural backgrounds. The Black Collegians Program at SMC provides a safe space for like-minded students to come together, learn and succeed.

This program is designed to assist students in transferring to four-year universities and obtaining their Associate Degree. The program offers services to set personal goals, while at the same time providing a sense of community for students.

Black Collegians aids the development of students’ skills that are necessary for college success, and provides educational and cultural activities where students can participate. A variety of scholarships are also given to active participants with at least a 2.5 grade point average. The program also has recommended courses that focus on Black issues and multiculturalism.

The Spring 2014 Program Review and SMC Office of Institutional Research found that on average, black students who participated in the Black Collegians Program had statistically significantly higher GPAs than those who did not.

This research also concluded that students who were in the Black Collegians Program and enrolled in a Black Collegians class tend to complete their classes and units at higher rates than students who did not participate in the Black Collegians Program or classes.

Terrance Ware Jr. is the Black Collegians club ICC delegate, and also a sophomore at SMC. Ware says that the program “opens up a lot of windows and opportunities for networking.” The club and being part of the program is known to provide a sense of belonging for students.

Black Collegians club advisor Sherri Bradford shares similar thoughts about the club’s importance concerning transferring, networking and socializing. Bradford, as a club advisor, supervises club meetings and provides leadership when needed.

Bradford is a UCLA graduate one of the many dedicated staff members for the program. The Black Collegians also has its own counseling staff, who students can go to for academic advice and guidance.

Chris Baccus, a USC graduate is one of the seven counselors for the program. According to Ware, “Baccus, along with many other members of the Black Collegians Staff can provide additional opportunities for students involved with the program.”

Ware describes the counselors as healthy role models for students. “They are relatable and are eager to listen to help you,” Ware said.

The club’s weekly meetings try to focus on a trending topic for each week. Topics include public and foreign policy, along with issues relevant to the Los Angeles area. With the issue of racism still relevant to modern America, the members of the Black Collegians often take part in group discussions regarding racial issues as well. Every semester, one of the club meetings is dedicated to a business workshop, which guides club members on how to budget their own financial accounts, etc.

On Nov. 3, the club’s topic was police brutality. They arranged for SMC police Chief Mark Kessler and police Captain Ray Bottenfield to attend the meeting to answer questions regarding the meeting’s theme. Questions were asked to the officers such as, “what image do you see when you hear police brutality?” According to Ware, the officers admitted that truth be told, there are good and bad cops. And that police officers are well aware of the advantages they possess.

The meeting on Nov. 17 featured a speech given by SMC Communications professor, Rosalyn Kahn. Kahn has worked with TED talk speakers in training them, and has even performed her own speeches for “TEDx.” In her speech, Kahn believes that “ignorance is the biggest cultural barrier.”

According to Ware, these club discussions and presentations allow all members of the club “to come together as one.” Ware goes on to explain that everyone has something to say and conversation allows for the knowledge of each club member to expand.

This being so, the opportunity for black students at SMC to assemble and motivate each other to succeed, is advantageous. Activities coming up include workshops, field trips and even a winter formal dance on Dec. 4 in the SMC cafeteria.

Requirements to be in the Black Collegians program is to attend at least three meetings/activities, and attend two Black Collegians counseling appointments per semester.

The Black Collegians program headquarters is located in the Black Collegian Center within the Counseling Complex.