The chancellor of the California State University system spoke at a Bakersfield church Sunday to launch an annual outreach effort aimed at helping black students prepare for college.
"We know one thing: If they go to college, their life is better forever," Chancellor Charles B. Reed told worshippers at St. John Missionary Baptist Church.
The chancellor's appearance in front of hundreds at the East Brundage Lane church -- and more watching on TV -- helped kick off a weeks-long series of events known as Super Sunday that will bring the university system's presidents, trustees and others into more than 100 predominantly black churches around California to tout the benefits of a college degree and to offer practical advice on starting appropriate course work early. This is the sixth year for the expanding program.
Reed and other CSU representatives had met with some families before the service to hand out literature, CSU pennants and a poster outlining college prep course work from 6th grade on. Some churchgoers carried bags with the goodies into the morning service.
"I want you to put (the poster) on the wall, praise the Lord," Reed told attendees, before revealing what he said were the keys to the kingdom: Algebra I and II.
Any student who earns a C or better in Algebra I and II can graduate from any college in the state, he said. He also stressed the availability of financial aid in the CSU system.
Reed introduced his talk by telling congregants about a life-changing day when, as a football player at George Washington University, practice was cancelled without explanation. He and other students saw thousands of people walking by and followed them to the Lincoln Memorial.
"There, I heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech," Reed said.
Reed's talk touting the benefits of a college education -- not only for the student, but for his or her family and community -- was met with warm affirmations and received a standing ovation.
Reed tossed out some numbers: College graduates earn an average $2 million during their working lives, while those with only a high school diploma earn $750,000.
Horace Mitchell, president of the Cal State University Bakersfield campus, introduced Reed, and other CSU officials were on hand as well. Kern County Supervisor Karen Goh also attended the service.
At least two students who attended Reed's pre-service presentation are already well on their way to college.
Alexis Alfred, a 14-year-old Stockdale High School freshman -- and daughter of St. John's pastor, the Rev. Antonio M. Alfred -- has her sights set on Harvard University or Tulane University in New Orleans and plans to be a lawyer. Alexis is taking necessary classes and participates in sports, clubs and community outreach to round out her resume.
Still, the visit from CSU's chancellor will help keep her courage up as she works toward her goals, Alexis said.
Brady Maiden, a 15-year-old Bakersfield High School sophomore, also has Harvard in mind, along with University of Connecticut and Howard and Duke universities. She has already taken the PSAT, is enrolled in GATE and advanced placement courses and hopes to be an entertainment lawyer.
"It was pretty inspirational," Brady said of the chancellor's visit.
The Cal State system, created in 1961, boasts 23 campuses -- including Bakersfield's -- and enrolls about 412,000 students.
Super Sunday events were held at seven other churches around California Sunday and more will take place Feb. 20 and Feb. 27. For more information and a list of participating venues, go to www.calstate.edu/supersunday.