On Sunday Pastor Antonio Alfred of St. John Missionary Baptist Church called on his congregation to wait on the Lord and be assured that, with God's help, they would rise up on wings as eagles.
He called on the young African Americans of the community to find the strength in their faith to shrug off the anger, bitterness and revenge that can cause them to fail.
"Don't let them tell you you're a nobody," Alfred shouted, staring into the first row as he spoke.
He was looking at Timothy White, the new chancellor of the California State University system.
White stood to bear witness.
It was Super Sunday, part of a CSU system outreach program held each February and March that is aimed at encouraging young African Americans and their families to make college a goal.
Leaders in the CSU system visit churches across the state to speak about the critical need for students to start preparing for college early, to not let financial hardships and the challenges of life get in the way.
Before Alfred's sermon, White had told the congregation of St. John about his own past.
He grew up in a family that didn't have much and was the first in his family to go to college, he said.
"I was told I was a dead-end kid; I'd do OK but I'd never amount to much," White said.
That gave him the motivation to reach his goals.
According to his official biography, White attended Diablo Valley Community College, Fresno State, Cal State Hayward and the University of California at Berkeley, where he got his doctorate degree.
He urged the community to support their youth and encourage their children, grandchildren and the kids down the street to believe they can attend a CSU campus and seek out help to get there.
Students from families that make less than $70,000 a year can, essentially, go to school without "spending a dime," White said.
"Do not let the cost get in the way of going to Cal State," he said.
Ciara Frazier, 20, said she assumed White's backstory would be one of middle-class privilege.
But she said White's story about growing up poor and being written off by those around him connected with her.
"I think that way all the time," Frazier said.
She is currently attending Bakersfield College and hoping to get a degree in psychology and a career in child counseling.
Frazier is deeply involved in youth programs at St. John and said the church, which counts Cal State Bakersfield President Horace Mitchell among its members, has one of the largest outreach programs to young people and was the perfect place for White to speak.
White, only six weeks into his leadership of the nation's largest university system, chose to visit Bakersfield because the community is strong and the university, in Mitchell, has a president with a strong connection to the community.
Mitchell said he tries to tell young people repeatedly that they can achieve their goals, even though a university degree might be a difficult one to pursue.
"We would hope that you never run into problems," he tells them. But that's not the real world. "You have to have an internal shock-absorber. Take the blows and keep on moving forward.
Alfred said youth need to believe the strength of the Lord will fill them and help them better themselves.
Ultimately, White said, Alfred and he have the same mission to young people.
"He uses the cross. I use a textbook," White said.