Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley Sunday took the stage at a local church Sunday to deliver an emotional call to action — earn a college degree despite financial roadblocks.
“A college degree can unblock life changing and transformative opportunities for you, your family, your whole community,” Conoley said. “It’s never too early to prepare to go to college and it is never too late to return.”
The 13th annual Super Sunday is a statewide event in which leaders from each California State University campus visit churches in low-income areas to encourage high school students to pursue higher education.
The event took place at 10 a.m. Sunday with approximately 40 people attending the event at Second Samoan Congregational Church UCC and had a few specific differences from its previous years. This Super Sunday expanded its outreach to over 100 different churches to discuss Graduation Initiative 2025, an initiative which promises to increase graduation rates and limit both financial and achievement gaps.
Conoley suggested enrolling as a transfer rather than a freshman student could be better a better option for lower income families.
She advocated the importance of obtaining a degree and prompted her captive audience to take full advantage of educational opportunities.
Plugging the “No Barriers” campaign, she highlighted the amount of students who receive financial aid beyond loans.
“Most undergraduates with family incomes below $70,000 have their tuition fully covered by grants. I am proud to say about 75 percent of students here at Long Beach receive non-loan financial aid,” Conoley said. “Fifty percent of my students here at Long Beach graduate with no debt, while the average debt for a Long Beach State student is about $15,000 for the other half that have debt.”
Conoley also addressed the importance of establishing relationships with alumni, mentioning that the church is lead by alumnus Reverend Misipouena Tagaloa who graduated from the school’s graduate program in 1993.
“The fact that we were able to have the president here in our midst, worshipping with us, that’s huge, for it’s never been done in our community and that’s why we were so humbled,” Tagaloa said. “Sometimes we just need that little extra edge, and I think she did that today.”
Tagaloa said he recognizes his importance as an alumnus of CSULB and as a pastor within the Samoan community.
“It was huge to have the president of my college, come and visit my church and talk to my young people. That’s Christ-like,” said Tagaloa. “I think institutions ought to power their leaders to do more of this work rather than hold them in a desk or some office somewhere.”
Once the service ended, high school students crowded around a table layered with pamphlets and colorful pages on how a high school student should prepare for the route to college.
“These events remind us of our responsibilities as a university to make sure our community knows how to interact and engage with us,” said Evelyn Daliwan, director of university outreach and school relations. “We want the students and people of Long Beach to know that we’re their CSU.”
Daliwan emphasized the importance of preparing for college in high school.
“Of course we would love for them to come to the campus but it’s really about making sure they know it’s about getting ready for college,” Daliwan said. “The message is without a college degree, they may not have get the opportunities that are open to those who do obtain a college degree. We want to prepare them and help them get ready for the future.”
Daliwan said that the plan moving forward is for each of the 23 CSUs to individually find ways to get more involved with their communities in respective cities.