CAAP Excellence for Black Students to Finish Strong
By Dianne Anderson
Lifelong student debt and systemic barriers are just two reasons why a lot of Black students have been turning to education options outside of California, particularly the HBCUs
This weekend, Ingrid Johnson is hosting a booth where many parents and scholars in her program will attend the 23rd Annual Los Angeles Black College Expo. The event will be held Saturday, February 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
She said Black students are starting to be prudent consumers of education, seeking schools that embrace them and meet their cultural curiosity.
But she said developing student confidence is the key. It has a lot to do with whether students will see success in the long run.
“I find the Black colleges do a lot in that area with our children,” she said. “It’s not just about going to a school, and getting a degree to see if you think you can really fit.”
CAAP started nearly 30 years ago, now serving over 350 students throughout SoCal. Their program boasts a 100% graduation rate for their high schoolers, who learn the importance of having a plan about where they want to get their education, and then check and recheck.
Right now, about 10% of her students are electing to go to HBCUs, mostly Howard, Spelman, Morehouse, Xavier and Tuskegee. She thinks it’s a great alternative to some high-priced institutions that are not supportive of Black students.
“Instead of spending a lot of money, students want to make sure they can get their degree with the least debt as possible because debt is the reason why they are not able to move up,” said Johnson, co-founder and president of the nonprofit Council of African American Parents.
Last summer, CAAP received a $10,000 grant from the Orange County Community Foundation to help supplement one of their programs serving fourth through tenth graders.
Lately, they also expanded their Orange County-based programming to work with students at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, where she hopes to see an increase in Black student participation this year. The college has an African American president, Dr. Soraya M. Coley, and last summer appointed Jonathan Grady, Ph.D., the Associate Vice President and Dean of Students.
She also advocates going straight into a four-year experience. Broad-based data is not available, but from what she sees, she’s not impressed with the community college experience for Black students.
Traditionally, she said African Americans may go to college, but it usually takes from 7- 9 years to graduate.
“We don’t think those are very good numbers,” she said, but noted that community college is still viable as a springboard to higher education.
It could help accelerate or mediate scholars who, for whatever reason, can’t access Advanced Placement or honors classes at their regular high school campuses. Community college classes or summer school can help fill that gap.
These days, there is a growing awareness about what higher education entails, but the most important lesson may be that it’s not all about the money, or the name of the institution that counts.
“Parents are understanding the game,” she said. “They’re going to campuses that support their student’s educational excellence. If they don’t have that setup, [they’re] paying all the money and leaving there and their spirit is broken,” she said.
Originally, Johnson started CAAP to meet the needs of her own daughter. When she first moved to Diamond Bar, she saw deep discrimination in the school system and Advanced Placement classes were not offered to her daughter.
Today, CAAP is a familiar name for parents and learning institutions. Their range of programs helps young and older students with supplemental services, public speaking and social-emotional learning.
“We do all those things for our students. We have 100% college-going rate. Our kids graduate from high school go straight to college, graduating in four years,” she said.
Her program also stays in tight communication with their families, and work with nearly every campus regionally and statewide partnerships and outreach. They are especially excited that this is the first year they have given two full-ride scholarships to Cal State Dominguez Hills in partnership with the campus president Dr. Thomas Parham, formerly the vice president of student affairs at UCI.
This year, CAAP services include their upcoming Legacy Roundtable for Male Scholars and calculus with registration on their website. Academic Workshops for scholars in the 11th and 12th graders, Personal Academic Learning System Program for scholars 4th grade through 10th grade. K-3 scholars can participate in themed storytime.
The program boasts several recognizable alumni, including the president of the Washington Commanders of the National Football League (NFL), Broadcast journalist Rachel Scott, Raquel Rall, UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Riverside, and Attorney David Griffith, an associate at associate in Crowell & Moring’s Orange County office, to name a few.
“Our scholars do well. They have a network and when you have a network of support you do better because we hold them accountable. It’s not just about them, it’s about the legacy and the shoulders they’re standing on,” she said.
To learn more about programs, see https://councilofafricanamericanparents.org/