黑料网 stresses the power of a college degree during Super Sunday

Published February 26, 2024

Sounds of celebration and worship 鈥 singing voices, organ, electric guitar and bass, synthesizers and drums 鈥 greeted congregants who gathered for Sunday morning services at Temple Baptist Church in Long Beach. And not too long after the musical welcome, Cal State Long Beach representatives addressed the congregation to let those in the pews know that they and their loved ones can also belong on campus.听

鈥淢y mission, what I want people to understand, is that Cal State University Long Beach is in a position to receive you,鈥 graduate student Artist Knox said during his address. 鈥淭he red carpet is being rolled out.鈥澨

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Graduate student Artist Knox
Graduate student Artist Knox

Knox, pursuing a Master of Social Work, was among several speakers from The Beach and additional California State University campuses who participated in events on Feb. 25 to relay messages of welcome and encouragement to Black congregations. Super Sunday is an annual event and a significant component of the CSU's outreach efforts.听

In addition to the Temple Baptist visit, Cal State Long Beach representatives spent time at two other Long Beach churches on Feb. 25. President Jane Close Conoley and Vice President of Student Affairs Beth Lesen, respectively, headed delegations to Antioch Church of Long Beach and The ROCK Christian Fellowship. Daria Graham, associate vice president of student success and engagement, is scheduled to visit Brister Baptist Church in Compton March 3.听

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Congregants at Temple Baptist Church
Congregants at Temple Baptist Church

Temple Baptist Church, about two and a half miles west of Cal State Long Beach, is part of a diverse neighborhood where small businesses exist among a mix of apartment buildings and single-family homes. The church draws worshippers from throughout Long Beach, including congregants who are 鈥渟ometimes considered to be working poor,鈥 Pastor Torie Russell said in an interview.听

The affordability of a CSU degree 鈥 about covering tuition costs 鈥 is central to CSU鈥檚 Super Sunday messaging. Russell credited Beach representatives who visited the church for prior years鈥 Super Sunday events 鈥 particularly the campus advisors who help would-be students through the admissions process 鈥 for being able to relate to young parishioners and provide meaningful guidance to help youths enroll for classes.听

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Pastor Torie Russell
Pastor Torie Russell

鈥淓very person we push through to graduation gives light and liberty to the next person that comes through,鈥 Russell said.听

The musicians who enlivened the Temple Baptist service included Dontrell Quarles, a drummer and Paramount resident. Quarles earned a bachelor鈥檚 degree in management from Delaware State University and said he is interested in studying data analytics at the graduate level.听

鈥淚t was inspiring to hear from them that it was a possibility,鈥 Quarles said of the Super Sunday speakers.听

In addition to hearing from Knox, the Temple Baptist audience listened to mathematics and statistics professor Kagba Suaray. Suaray referred to showing that college graduates tend to benefit from greater earnings and lower unemployment rates than others in the labor market. He also provided a more aspirational view of how a degree can impact a life.听

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Kagba Suaray
Mathematics professor Kagba Suaray

鈥淲hat thoughts swirl in your mind when you stare at the ceiling at night?鈥 Suaray asked before building to an answer 鈥 鈥淚t鈥檚 what you鈥檙e put on Earth to do.鈥澨

鈥淎 college degree is oftentimes the best way to move from that space of just doing a job, punching that card 9-to-5, and living out your calling,鈥 he also said.听

Suaray earned his bachelor鈥檚 degree from Cal State Long Beach when he was then a participant in the McNair Scholars Program, a federally funded effort supporting underrepresented students on their way to doctoral degrees. Suaray is now invested in a new generation of students鈥 empowerment and intellectual development. He is motivated to help Black students, students of color, and first-generation students achieve successes that can be perpetuated through future generations.听

鈥淚t鈥檚 everything to me, that we don鈥檛 stop with us,鈥 said Suaray, who also devotes his energies to helping Black learners cultivate mathematics knowledge through his involvement in The Hesabu Circle.听

For Knox, higher education has been a transformational experience. He began his university education while incarcerated and earned a bachelor鈥檚 from Cal State Fullerton with support from the CSU鈥檚 program. Knox now serves as a pastor at a Compton congregation and as a social work intern helping Long Beach area teens and young adults who have become involved with the justice system develop emotional intelligence and find paths leading to job training, education, and housing, he said.听

鈥淢y life after the degree, so many doors have opened,鈥 Knox said. 鈥淭here鈥檚 not enough time in the day and there鈥檚 not enough of me to commit to all the opportunities.鈥澨

Speaking to the congregation, Suaray called attention to the CSU鈥檚 鈥 coupled to a $10 million investment 鈥 to support the enrollment of retention of Black and African American students. In an interview before Super Sunday, Knox said community outreach events can be essential to helping students understand how they can find places for themselves on campus.听

鈥淕o to where we are,鈥 Knox said. 鈥淎 lot of us don鈥檛 know that we are welcome. That we belong.鈥

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Congregants at Temple Baptist Church
Congregants at Temple Baptist Church