From briefly living on Skid Row, to the height of academic achievement, Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) student Tanisha Washington will, by example, demonstrate to church parishioners the importance of early college preparation during the fifth annual CSU Super Sunday on Feb. 28.
Washington, who has received the William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement, will address church goers at Price Chapel AME Church at 4000 W. Slauson Ave. in Los Angeles at 11 a.m. Super Sunday is part of the California State University’s (CSU) highly-successful African American Initiative, which strives to find new ways to educate youth and parents about the value of a college degree and the steps that must be completed in launching a successful college career. “Unfortunately, the longer kids wait to plan their college education, the more they increase the risk of not taking the right courses at the right time and getting on track to meeting college eligibility requirements,” said Washington, a graduate student studying management information systems/applications development at CSULB. “The sooner students get to work [especially where Algebra and the more advanced math courses are concerned] the better. It’s better to start out ahead instead of behind.” Since Jan. 31, CSU officials, including Chancellor Charles Reed, trustees, campus presidents, and other higher education representatives, have been reaching out to more than 100,000 families in 100 African American churchesthroughout the state. In 2005, Super Sunday was launched with only 11 churches in Los Angeles and 13 churches in Northern California. Super Sunday enables Washington to share her experiences and make her own impact in encouraging the pursuit of higher education in African American communities. She will be part of an effort that in five years has contributed to a78 percent increase in the number of African American students applying for freshman admission to the 23 CSU campuses, and a 20 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment by African American students. Like some of those she will address during Super Sunday, Washington has faced many challenges in her life and on her road to collegiate success. The first and “most tragic” was when her father passed away. The subsequent financial hardships threatened to derail her and her siblings’ pursuit of higher education. Shorty after her father’s death, Washington, her two siblings and her disabled mother fell into poverty. In 2003, they were briefly forced to live in the Skid Row section of downtown Los Angeles. “We struggled through each day as a family. Fortunately, both my sister and I are now on our way to completing our educations. All the struggling has paid off and now a very bright future lies ahead for us,” she said. Besides promoting higher education, Washington will also highlight the role of parental involvement and early preparation in facilitating successful access to college for African Americans. Following Super Sunday services, CSU outreach staff and church education counselors will provide information about the steps to college and financial aid. Washington believes that church is a great environment to connect with both students and their families. “I’ve taken a personal interest in Super Sunday because I know how essential it is to get a college education. If a student applies to college and doesn’t meet the eligibility requirements, he or she may be discouraged and not go for it,” explained Washington. “Getting into college can seem like an insurmountable challenge if a student is unprepared. Therefore, I’m happy to do whatever I can to reach out to students and their families to help them prepare as early as possible for a brighter future.” Carrying a 4.0 grade point average at CSULB, Washington is now well on her way to accomplishing her educational goals. She began her college career at Los Angeles City College with very little computer knowledge. Like a sponge, she “soaked up everything” she could about computers and eventually graduated as class valedictorian with an associate’s degree in computer science and information technology. Washington has accomplished quite a bit in her “spare time.” In 2007, she volunteered at Los Angeles City College’s Office of Special Services where she used translation software to convert mathematics textbooks into Braille for visually impaired students. In addition, last year a team of students from CSULB’s College of Business Administration that was led by Washington won the CSULB Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Challenge by designing shoes made out of plastic grocery bags. She hopes to turn the shoe design idea into a business that will help children living in poverty and reduce the environmental impact of these bags on local landfills. Adding to her impressive resume, Washington was invited to join the CSULB chapter of the Golden Key International Honor Society, is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, Phi Kappa Phi and the Information Systems Student Association. Washington hopes to launch her computer career as a business analyst at a major corporation, such as Google. With her sister, who is also working on her management information systems degree, she would also like to eventually start a computer company. “Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that I have come so far in my educational journey,” admitted Washington. “I won a scholarship and internship offer from Google, took first place in an innovation challenge, and received one of the greatest recognitions a student can get by being named a Hearst Scholar. It is all so unreal. The possibilities for the future truly are endless. CSULB has given me the confidence that I can accomplish anything.”