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African, Chicano Student Programs Both Hit Milestone Anniversary At UCR

RIVERSIDE, CA- For 45 years, African Student Programs (ASP) and Chicano Student Programs (CSP) at the University of California, Riverside campus has been providing a home away from home for students.

“‘Our duty in life is to make a difference in others’ lives,’ that was something a mentor once told me,” said Ken Simons, the director of African Student Programs. “That inspired me to do what I do. It’s rewarding to help these students, it’s rewarding to make a difference in their lives, it’s rewarding to provide a space for these students who might otherwise feel alone on a university campus.”

Simons has been the director of ASP for the past 14 years, and he’s been connected to UCR since 1979, when he was a student athlete. He said that, for many of the first-generation black students, ASP becomes the place where they feel comfortable expressing questions and concerns – especially cultural concerns.

“I’m real with the students, I tell them what they need to hear, because I realize they might not hear it from someone else,” Simons said.

Formerly referred to as Black Student Programs, ASP is generally agreed to have formed at UCR campus in 1972, out of the campus’ Black Student Union and Black Studies Department. Over the years, ASP has become a space where students can go to gain confidence, for support, and to feel at home.

“Years after graduating, we have students reflect on the mentorship they received during their time at UCR through ASP,” Simons said. “There are countless stories from students who recall getting through the tough times because of the conversations they had with staff at the organization.”

Since 1972, ASP has been a key component for the success of black students at UCR. Earlier this year, UCR was recognized as one of the nation’s best institutions in successfully graduating black students relative to their white counterparts. While black student graduation rates lag behind white student graduation rates by about 22 percent nationally, UCR graduates black students at a rate 1.7 percent higher than white students, announced The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that analyzed data from four-year colleges and universities in its report, “A Look at Black Student Success: Identifying Top- and Bottom-Performing Institutions.”

At UCR, 69.5 percent of black students graduate, compared with 41 percent nationally. Simons said that success can be linked to the variety of services ASP provides its students – like, informing them about scholarships, internships, research, and graduate school and career opportunities. ASP also sponsors a variety of events and programs every year, including an academic mentorship program, and the Black Graduation Ceremony – which is Sunday, June 11 at 2 p.m. at the Student Recreation Center.

Estella Acuna has been the director of CSP since 2004, and graduated from UCR in 1999. Acuna’s goal as the director is to give UCR students what CSP provided for her.

“I was a first-generation student, and CSP provided a home away from home for me. I felt safe, I felt connected to my peers and the community – I would have a hard time surviving without the amazing staff,” Acuna said.

Like ASP, CSP was founded in 1972. According to Acuna, the creation of the space stemmed from student and faculty movement aimed at developing an organization that would meet the needs of both Raza faculty and students on campus. They wanted a space that would nourish the growing Latino/a population of first-generation scholars coming to UCR.

“We are truly like a family at CSP. There is a sense of community, and unwavering support for the students,” Acuna said.

In 2015, UCR was recognized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics as a Bright Spot in Hispanic education. As a Bright Spot, UCR is part of a national online catalog that includes over 230 programs that invest in key education priorities for Hispanics. The university was honored for its student success efforts with the College of Natural and Agricultural Science’s freshman learning communities, as well as for its ethnic parity in campus graduation rates. It is rare in higher education to have little gap between students of different ethnicities.

CSP, like ASP, holds annual events, like Semana de la Raza, the César E. Chávez 5K Run/Walk, and Raza graduation ceremony, which will be Saturday, June 10.

For more information about both student programs, visit their websites: African Student Programs, and Chicano Student Programs.

 

It’s Time to Take Back the Streets…Again at this Weekend’s Community Block Party

SAN BERNARDINO, CA- San Bernardino Pastors United (SBPU) is “Taking Back our Streets” on Saturday, June 10, at the next enormous community block party.  They are taking a stance against the increasing gang activity and other senseless violent crimes within our city.  They are asking the community to join us as they bring “Healing, Change, and Progress” to the City of San Bernardino. The Churches of San Bernardino stand together as a united front to REVIVE the communities within San Bernardino and the surrounding areas.

The afternoon will consist of free food, groceries, shoes, backpacks, clothes, and health screenings. There will also be other organizations helping to bless the community.  They encourage people to contact SBPU either by phone, email online at www.sbpastorsunited.org to pre-register for the free giveaways. For more information call (909) 353-7977 or email sbpastorsunited@gmail.com.

“Lord, If You Just Get Me Out of This Mess…!”

Lou Coleman

Lou Coleman

By Lou Coleman

I promise you I will never do it again! I’ll stop sinning! I’ll do anything you say, Lord! Please Lord! Help me! Get me out of this mess!  I tell you the nerve we have trying to bargain with God! Ain’t that ‘bout a pickle! But we do it all the time. We are all guilty. In fact, we are so good at it, and so used to it, that we think it is normal, right, and expected. Tell me, how many times has God come through for you? How many times has He moved mountains in your life? How many times has He caused peace in the storm? How many times has He met your need, done the impossible, and proven Himself to be God for you? But what I really want to know is how many times have you renege on your promise to God after he has delivered you out of your mess? And now you got the nerve to ask Him to deliver you again?

I tell you we ain’t no different they those in the Book of Old. You see Abraham tried to negotiate God’s peace with Sodom, in return for finding a certain number of righteous people in the city; Jacob was willing to devote himself to the Lord in exchange for safety and provision on his long journey; Jephthah bargained with what he assumed would be an animal of his to be sacrificed if the Lord granted him victory over the enemy; and Hannah was willing to give any son the Lord gave her back to Him, if He opened her womb. The truth of the matter is that we have no bargaining position. We are utterly owned by God and we are squatters on His land. Every breath we take is a gift from Him. Every virtue we perform is because of His grace.  We must remember that God owes us nothing; we are complete debtors to Him. The good news here however is that in all of these cases, God fulfilled their requests because of His love and His grace.

I want you to know that trouble is often didactic [intended to teach a moral lesson]. Some of the most amazing lessons of your life will come in times of stress and strain.  You may not believe this now while you are in your mess, but you will be better because of the trouble you went through! You will be stronger and you will be wiser because of it! Your praise will even be where it needs to be because of it! I tell you, trouble came to make us better. I can testify that by my own experience when I experienced trouble I became a better person because of it. The things I’ve learned in sorrow are the things I’ve learned the best! You see no matter how difficult the circumstances may be, you have to see the hand of God in it.

You know Job made a request to God and then he took a stand in God. Perhaps that is what God is saying to someone today who is big on the request side, but suffering on the stand side. You cannot ask God to do, if you refuse to be. Your convictions must be clear. Your stance must be sure. Your resolve must be resounding. You are not reading this because you wonder if God is going to do it. You have a history with God. You have seen God do too much over the years to even let doubt come out of your mouth. You know God is going to do it. The real question is how long are you willing to wait for God to manifest it into your life? I know it is rough, but wait it out. I know you are pushed to the edge, but wait it out. If you just wait this thing out, God will work it out. The trials and adversities of life are never pleasant, but it is in them that we learn the secrets of dependence, of grace, of hope and of God’s presence. None of us wishes for trials or adversity, but it is through them that God refines the metal of our lives and molds us into His image. Just as metal is placed in a furnace and heated to a white hot state so the dross can be removed, God allows us to enter the furnace of affliction so that He might refine and purify our lives. Rather than complain and be depressed, know there is a blessing tucked away in the midst of the trouble.

“If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established. [Isaiah 7:9]