UCR Recruitment: Black Students Get Ready
By Dianne Anderson
Getting Black students to campus, and nurturing them all the way to graduation is what sets the University of California at Riverside numbers apart from most other four-year college campuses.
It’s probably because the students know they have a place to call home.
On October 27, Black high schoolers will come far and wide to beat the Nov. 30 deadline for Freshman applications to UCR. They will be greeted with the royal treatment, free workshops, admissions help and financial aid. They will mix and mingle with the Divine Nine, the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) fraternities and sororities.
Amaryllis Williams, co-coordinator of the event along with former BSU President, Beverly Omoregie, attributes strong campus retention and graduation to the good variety of African Student Programs support, such as the upcoming annual My Black Excellence event.
It draws them in, and more importantly, keeps them coming back.
Along with their regular year-round ASP outreach, she said the “Black dorms,” also known as the Pan African Theme Hall, provides a safe zone of familiarity to press on in an often isolated higher education environment.
Williams, who has also lived in the Black dorms, said the experience is a grounding force for new students to grow stronger during those first vulnerable years of campus life.
“We’re having conversations with them that they don’t get to have in high school,” she said. “We have a little bit more freedom for those open dialogues.”
Because Black students must assimilate into jobs or an academic environment that is not “built for them,” she said there must be a better way for students to connect on realistic terms.
Clubs, specific programming, and the dorm can help in the transition. In that space, she said students can be authentically and unapologetically Black.
“We can study or talk the way we want, and not be chastised for applying ourselves to the stereotype that Black people most of the time are given,” said Williams, also a member of Sisters Affirming our Socio-Cultural Identities.
Connecting young Black scholars from local high schools to the UCR campus is the inspiration for the event.
The numbers show that UCR has been able to get more Black students enrolled at a time when other campuses are struggling to attract and to retain students.
Williams serves as a volunteer for this year’s MBE event, which is coordinated by Rhyan Robinson, the vice-president of Sisters Affirming our Socio-Cultural Identities.
She said that specific recruitment programs, such as the My Black Excellence event and the Black dorms have worked together to create a strong uptick in Black graduation on campus in recent years.
For many Black students, stepping into unknown territory is the challenge. She said they are leaving home for the first time, and often the first in the family to go to college. Their parents are usually not able to guide them, and there is great pressure to succeed in an isolated environment.
“Knowing that you can at least come home — if you will — to people that look like you, to share your experiences, lessens the amount of anxiety that you have in entering into higher education,” she said.
Williams, also a representative for the ASP Highlander Referendum, helps monitor and advocate for funding for the African Student Programs. As a member of SASI, she said the goal this year is focused getting Black students into more discussion-based events, and throw out an academic lifeline for those that need it.
“We still heavily pride ourselves as the catalyst for being the backbone of the social justice movement and we definitely will be the first ones to respond,” she said.
Emily Engelschall, director of Undergraduate Admissions, said the My Black Excellence outreach event, formerly known as Unity Day, is in partnership with African Student Programs and UC Riverside Student Leaders.
She said that it provides a great platform for exposure to support services and recruiting continues to be the priority for the local community.
“Martin Luther King High School staff and students have been the most engaged thus far and have said they will bring a full bus of scholars to the event. We expect to serve close to 300 scholars in the Southern California area at this event,” Engelschall said in an email.
For more event information, contact Ms. Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org