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Now is the time for members of the Black and African American community to invest in a college degree, specifically a degree from Cal State San Bernardino and the California State University system for its value, affordability and providing a pathway to the stable, meaningful, high-paying and in-demand careers of the future.

That was the message that CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales brought to members of the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in San Bernardino on Feb. 26, as part of the California State University’s Super Sunday initiative on the importance of preparing for college.

“I want to thank the St. Paul AME Church family for allowing me to be here – its deacons, its elders, its pastoral team and leadership. Cal State San Bernardino, simply put, is your university,” Morales said. “And I’m here to remind you that and to encourage you to partner with Cal State San Bernardino. We want to go beyond simply coming in as part of Black History Month and having an opportunity to speak with you on the fourth Sunday of the month. But more importantly, to have an opportunity to interact with the parents and grandparents and youth of the St. Paul AME family.”

With the theme “Equity, Access, Affordability and Social Mobility,” Morales joined fellow campus presidents, CSU system leaders and administrators who visited nearly 100 predominately African American churches throughout California in spreading the message to Black and African American families that a college degree is affordable, within reach, transformational and theirs for the taking.

Since its launch in 2005, more than a million people have participated in this signature awareness event of the CSU’s African American Initiative, which aims to increase the preparation, support, retention and degree attainment of Black and African American students.

CSUSB officials also spoke at churches in the region including: New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, San Bernardino, Provost Rafik Mohamed; Ecclesia Christian Fellowship, San Bernardino, university advancement Vice President Robert Nava; New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, San Bernardino, human resources Vice President Robin Phillips; Immanuel Praise Fellowship, Rancho Cucamonga, information technology services Vice President Samuel Sudhakar; and Life Church of God in Christ Church, Riverside, student affairs Vice President Paz Olivérez.

“Eighty percent of the students that attend Cal State San Bernardino live in either Riverside or San Bernardino counties,” Morales told St. Paul AME Church. “Seventy-five percent of our graduates are alumni, who live in Riverside or San Bernardino counties. So I’m sure that there are many alumni who are members of the St. Paul AME Church.”

Morales told church members that the university is committed to student success for Black and African American students, as well as all students, and that higher education is important and can make a difference in their lives.

We need you and us to remind young people that it’s not should you go to college, it’s when you go to college. And if they come to Cal State San Bernardino, that’s a blessing for us. But most importantly, they should go onto college,” Morales said.

The president said that CSUSB has a very vibrant and dynamic African American community and last week hosted the annual Pioneer Breakfast, which was attended by hundreds from the university and surrounding communities, which he said was a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge university and community leaders.

He added that the university helps African American students both inside and outside the classroom. We have a wonderful Pan African Student Success Center. Our cybersecurity center is outstanding. We have an array of African American student organizations and Greek organizations.”

Morales said that a college education is not limited to young people. While most of CSUSB’s new students are 18-year-old freshmen or 21-year-old transfers from community colleges, it’s never too late to go back to college, sharing the story about his own mother.

“My mother had three boys at a very young age and dropped out of high school. And at 40 years old, when her youngest son, yours truly, left home to go to college, she went back and got her high school equivalency certificate, an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in social work – all after the age of 40.”

Morales closed his remarks by urging the church members to contact him on the importance of a college education.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to me and to my leadership team as we begin to think about every child,” Morales said. “Every member of St. Paul AME should consider Cal State San Bernardino their university.”

After the Super Sunday services, CSUSB outreach directors and staff provided information on the CSU application and admission process, as well as scholarships and financial aid available to Cal State students.

With 23 universities across California, the CSU offers more access to diverse higher education pathways than any public university system in the United States. Nearly one-third of CSU students are the first in their family to earn a degree, more than half are from traditionally underrepresented communities and nearly half of undergraduates receive the Pell Grant. And, more than half of CSU bachelor’s recipients in 2021-22 graduated with zero student debt.