Press - 02/13/2013

High School Students Attend Black Student Conference at MiraCosta College

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Some 150 high school students spent a recent Friday at MiraCosta College to get a taste of the college experience during an event that included lively workshops on who’s allowed to use the N-word, the war on drugs and America’s incarceration of black men, and beauty and black women’s hair.

The United Black Student Conference program, dubbed `Leave Your Prints on History,’ was a key event in a series of Black History Month celebrations at the Oceanside Campus.

“This is part of a larger diversity agenda to attract, educate and graduate students of color,” MiraCosta College President Dr. Francisco Rodriguez said of the Feb. 8 program. “There is a national crisis going on and not enough people are paying attention. Black and brown students are not succeeding, and we simply need to do more.”

The college experience was the focus of a workshop led by United Black Student Union President Jakeel Harris. He led a discussion with a group of students of color who talked about why they opted to pursue their education beyond high school.
 
“For me, education is the key to success,” said Blanca Castro, a former MiraCosta College student who now attends Cal State San Marcos. 

“Education to me means opportunity,” said Cal State San Marcos student Sho Freeman. “Whatever you want to be, whatever you want to do, education has to be your first step.”

Naomi Trader was among those whom organizers were targeting. The El Camino High sophomore is a straight-A student, but she said she is “iffy” on whether she would go to college. “Being here is making me lean more toward going,” she said. “I see this as a place that encourages you to be you and not be ashamed of who you are or what you are.”

That was music to the ears of Dr. Bruce Hoskins, a MiraCosta College sociology professor who organized the event.

“We want to get African-American high school students excited about coming to college,” Dr. Hoskins said before the conference began. “We want to let them know about the topics we explore and what we have to offer. We want to give the students who show up a better understanding and a stronger sense of African-American history and culture.”

Dr. Hoskins led the discussion at the `Who’s Allowed to Use the N-Word’ workshop, a workshop that attracted dozens of high school and MiraCosta College students. Dr. Hoskins showed videos of a Chris Rock skit in which he uses the N-word liberally (“I love black people, but I hate n-----), along with an infamous clip of comedian Michael Richards’ (who played Kramer on the long-running ‘Seinfeld’ sitcom) inappropriate use of the term at a comedy club. An audio recording of radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s use of the word also was played.

Opinions varied, but most said it was inappropriate to ever use the N-word. Others said it was never appropriate for a white person to use it, but a variation of the word could be used by African-Americans. Some said they didn’t have strong feelings one way or another.

“It’s a hurtful word, it should not be said,” opined Angie Green. “These young people who use it today, they don’t have a clue about its history.”

Hoskins said later the point of the session was to get people to think critically about larger issues.

“The word is not the problem,” he said. “The problem is what the word is related to and the larger structural issues that it represents.”

The United Black Student Conference is the latest in a series of MiraCosta College efforts to foster an inclusive atmosphere on campus. The Hermanos Unidos/Brothers United HUBU Conference on March 22 will feature young men discussing strategies in overcoming educational and personal challenges affecting men of color seeking a college degree.

MiraCosta College also sponsors a GEAR UP program with the Oceanside Unified School District that tutors and tracks students at Cesar Chavez and Jefferson middle schools through their first year of college.

Kyndall Doss, a 15-year-old sophomore at El Camino High School, was among the many high school students impressed with the Feb. 8 event.  “I’m going to college, that was my plan anyway,” she said. “But I think this is good to help motivate others.”

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