UCR Hosts Black Family Day
By Dianne Anderson
High school students looking for a campus home, to transfer from another college, or students already in the UC system are asked to come out with their families for a day of fun, resources, and access to free money possibilities at the Black Family Day at UCR.
Participants can register to win a $500 scholarship, and much more.
On Saturday, September 15, Black Family Day is “Taking the Lid Off” at the University of California, Riverside in partnership with the organizer, William H. Douglas Foundation, and several partners to get students acclimated to a collegiate way of life.
The event, sponsored by the UC Office of the President, and the Umoja Health and Wellness Initiative, starts at noon to 4:00 p.m., and located at the UCR Student Recreation Center at 900 University Ave, Parking Lot 24.
Pennie Douglas, executive director of the foundation, said the objective is to activate Black students and families to a place where they can speak freely about what they need to achieve their academic goals.
“Not an environment where they’re behind the desk or at a college fair, or at an appointment, but mainly a family atmosphere where they intermingle,” she said. “It’s so our youth understand they belong in this space, whether a UC or a high school — they belong.”
She said UCR was receptive to the of broadening Black Family Day to include the health and wellness component. Dr. April Clay, who heads a Black family therapy program, is confirmed to speak on how high performing students can bounce back through their first low grade, if, or when it happens.
Douglas said the biggest barrier for Black students is that so many are first-generation college goers. They don’t have siblings or someone close to show them the ropes, and they tend to get overwhelmed trying to navigate the experience alone.
“Historically, Black students are introverted. We want to provide resources to show there are other options, that you can go to this club, or that person, to get resources,” she said.
Black students also dealing with overworked counselors. In California, she said the average caseload is 800 to 900 students.
“It’s not hand-holding. The majority comes from first generation [students], they don’t know what to expect. Their high school probably hasn’t sufficiently prepared them enough to be on a college campus,” she said.
Douglas, a graduate of Cal Poly Pomona, said since starting the nonprofit foundation five years ago, they have garnered good partnerships.
Her goal is to make sure once African Americans get on campus, they stay in the program until they graduate.
The outreach is informative for all students of color, but especially Black students. When she was growing up, college was a daily conversation in her college prep high school than students get these days. For the most part, poverty prevents them from moving up.
Financial aid has been around a long time, now up to $12,600 yearly free money for many low-income UC students, but she says many do not know they qualify. For that reason, they can’t see themselves at the university.
“We’ve got to get our kids to see that this is a possibility,” she said.
Douglas, an English major, also hosts writing clinics in Ontario to help students sharpen university-level writing and research skills, which is a big part of surviving college life.
Soon, she is partnering with UCR to host another round of poetry clinics on Wednesdays.
Through her nonprofit foundation, she offers services for a sliding scale fee. She said in some ways, the small fee helps students have some skin in the game.
“I’ve been fooled, I’ve told people this is free, and they show up in a Range Rover,” she laughs. “It’s funny, but it’s sad.”
Many of her students come back. Recently, she said she was contacted by a Harvard admissions representative, who heard of her program and came out to speak with a small group of students, only five, but she said they are all academically ready.
“A lot of my students come back in the summer, and they intern or work with whatever summer program I have,” she said. “My students are kind of phenomenal.”
For additional information, contact (951) 415-9756.