Newsletter #1

May the Fourth

Leah Jones

I had the privilege of flying to CSU East Bay from CSU Channel Islands to attend the BEP Reception on May 4, 2023, in which four BEP associates and I described our roles and how we became connected to the venture. Upon arriving, I really did not know what to expect from the gathering. I only knew who the other speakers were and what I would say during my timeslot. Hearing Dr. Cleveland’s opening remarks about the project, I looked around the room and felt the meeting’s purpose. Every person was there to find out more about our vision and the intention behind it. The audience consisted of students, faculty, administrators, advocates and representatives from various organizations, and curious members of the community. Each time a new speaker went up to announce their part, I could not have made eye contact with anyone else because every person in the room was captivated by learning the speaker’s motivations and hearing their moving stories. Saleem Gilmore spoke about his long-term commitment to racial justice in the educational system, and how Prof. Cleveland brought him into the BEP. Stephen Baiter described the East Bay Economic Development Alliance’s work bringing together public and private sectors to support the BEP. Kyle Garcia discussed the work of La Familia, a community organization that provides resources to Bay Area communities. Last, but most certainly not least, came Edgar Chavez, who partners with Hayward Promise Neighborhoods, an organization that works with students from cradle to career, a core BEP value, empowering students long before they hit college. Hearing of these extraordinary collaborations, I wanted to make sure my comments showed the changes this project has already made. First, I described how essential BEP has been in my own college experience, helping me grow as a student and a person. Second, I showed that this project has legs beyond CSU East Bay: my campus, CSUCI, is part of the first wave of colleges reaping the benefits of BEP programs and resources aimed at marginalized groups, including students, faculty, staff, and administrators. In joining this fight, I found a passion and the support of an organization that is the key to extending a transformative college experience to others like me. The reception concluded with lovely, insightful conversations between community builders and interested parties, all committed to helping the BEP flourish. This description is just a snapshot of what’s to come.

Black Excellence Project 2023

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