Student Support Services during COVID
CSULB Outreach for Black Teachers
By Dianne Anderson
As for academics, not long ago things were easy breezy for sophomore Wallace Burney, a computer science major at the HBCU Langston University in Oklahoma.
That is, until he first noticed everything was shutting down at spring break, and all the fun was canceled.
Staying put in his dorm seemed like the safe move, even as thousands of other students were in the throes of big beach parties. A week later COVID-19 became a household word.
Burns and his friends were told they should pack up and go home because students on campus were at risk of exposure. Like most of his peers these days, he feels the pinch of college life behind the mask.
Last week, his little sister graduated with six-feet distancing graduation. He said the biggest challenge is the social aspect for students his age.
“The things I miss the most is just talking to my friends every day, friends I used to hang out with, go to study hall, playing basketball. That’s probably the things that I miss the most,” said Burney, long time mentee of the 100 Black Men of Long Beach.
Now he’s back home in Long Beach, waiting, not knowing if he’s returning to Langston. Many of his peers are muddling their way through the process without any word of what’s next.
Mostly, he handles the stress by getting out to nature as much as possible and trying to work out, but not everyone is keeping physically fit.
“One of my friends in Oklahoma, he’s dealing with it by basically being in his room 24/7. He’s taking it super seriously. He won’t even get out of the house,” he said.
A few of his other college friends dropped out. Once coronavirus hit during spring break, they never went back.
“It’s a struggle, college isn’t easy, but with the added stress of coronavirus and added stressors of online classes. Coronavirus has changed a lot of things.”
While he’s temporarily estranged from some of his favorite things, he will continue to study hard. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“One of my professors works for Google. He said as long as I have a 3.0 GPA, I can go work for him,” Burney said.
Dr. Lance Robert, president of the 100 Black Men of Long Beach, said many of his students are doing well with online classes. However, he is more concerned about family health and the economic hit to the community.
“I’ve had students tell me they’ve had the virus or their grandmother has it, or a partner has it. In emails or zoom calls, some have had to drop the class. A lot of it is finances, they couldn’t afford online because of [internet] bill, but they have it back now,” said Dr. Robert, a professor at Los Angeles Southwest College.
At the community college level, he said the issue is getting students registered, and College Promise offers students free tuition. Fall enrollment is now open, and many of his students are ready to roll.
“They’re getting adjusted to the transition. They plan to wear their masks, they’re resilient and they adapt,” he said.
Going into the fall semester, CSULB also offers a wide array of resources. Students can access scholarships, and those that missed getting in the fall semester can reapply for next spring.
No one could plan for the pandemic, but Dr. Shireen Pavri said their campus offers a safety net for students. Access to technology is a priority, and they kept larger computer labs and spaces for students open access for online coursework.
Chromebooks are available for students to borrow and take back home. They work with internet providers for free access. She said they understand the basic needs their students face.
“There’s been mental health issues, physical health issues, financial concerns. Childcare for working parents. It’s everything. People are juggling a lot,” said Pavri, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education and professor of special education at California State University, Long Beach.
There are food popups on campus, and some fundraising to help meet students’ needs. Most students have returned home, but some stayed on campus that would have been homeless, or had been in the foster system.
Through it all, there is an uptrend in applications from candidates finishing high school, transfer students, as well as some increase in graduate applications.
She said this is the right time for students to focus on things they can control.
“Going to school, like getting more professional education, preparing themselves for future careers given how the economy is going to be suffering as well,” she added.
But she wants to see more outreach for African American and Latino students, specifically in the College of Education. More teachers, administrators and counselors are needed that look like and share in the experiences of students in the K-12 system.
“We do really well with our Latino, especially female candidates and I would say we do want to see more African American candidates come into our teacher preparation program,” she said.
CSULB launched the teachers for Urban Schools Initiative with LBUSD in recent years, offering layers of support for teachers at urban schools. Candidates receive a faculty mentor, also access instructional aid positions at LBUSD to supplement income and teaching experience. They receive social emotional support, professional support, conferences, and financial support.
The campus also has the Mary Jane Patterson scholarship. Patterson, from Philadelphia, was the first African American woman to earn a Bachelor’s degree in 1862, and was a fugitive daughter of slaves. She became a teacher, and the principal of the nation’s first public high school for Black students.
At CSULB, their teacher preparation credential programs are accepting applications until August 1. She said there are special grants, and other sources of funding to help students get through their education.
“We really do need to make sure that our teaching force looks like our kids,” she said. “There is a huge discrepancy there.”
Student Support Services at CSULB during this pandemic:
The College of Education:
Joint College of Education and LBUSD Teachers for Urban Schools Initiative:
The Mary Jane Patterson Scholarship: