Fresno Unified Invests In Partnerships With HBCUs!

Will Tuskegee University expand? The unique, and rich cultural heritage that comes with an HBCU is unmatched!
By: EdSource
H B C U S {CCA} Dept Of Ed
H B C U S {CCA} Dept Of Ed
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Oct. 3, 2022 - PRLog -- By: Ashleigh Panoo @Edsource

A first-of-its-kind dual enrollment program in California's third-largest school district will guarantee admission to a historically Black college, giving students in the Central Valley a pathway to experience an HBCU.

Fresno Unified kicked off its Step Up Pathways program this school year with 60 students who will take college courses through Benedict College, a historically Black liberal arts college in South Carolina.

"The unique, and rich cultural heritage that comes with an HBCU is unmatched," said Tonisha Hargrove-Williams, the project manager for the Office of African American Acceleration, or A4, at Fresno Unified.

About 8% of students in the 76,000-pupil district identify as Black or African American, according to data from the California Department of Education.

Hargrove-Williams said the program is starting out at the three high schools that have the highest population of Black students: Edison High School in southwest Fresno, Sunnyside High School in southeast Fresno, and Bullard High School in northwest Fresno.

"The more students we impact, the better," she said. "We expect to expand to all other high schools in the near future."

The first HBCU west of the Rockies?
Superintendent Bob Nelson, who has been in the position for the last six years, said he wants to leave a lasting impression on the Central Valley before he reaches a decade in the position.

Nelson said he's been in preliminary talks with St. Augustine's University in Raleigh, North Carolina, about building a campus in the Central Valley.

"There's certainly nothing finalized yet," he told EdSource. "We're still talking in concept, but trying to figure out how we might be able to collaborate around that."

The 102 historically Black Colleges and Universities campuses are spread mostly across the South, with the closest in Texas. California does have the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, which carries the Historically Black Graduate Institution label.

Inside Higher Ed reported in April that several HBCUs are seeking to expand, and Paul Quinn College in Texas is eyeing the Bay Area.

Nelson said the goal of working with Benedict, and potentially St. Augustine's, "is to provide as many possible sources of support and opportunity as we can."

The year before the pandemic, only 24% of Fresno Unified Black students met or exceeded English standards on state tests, compared with 37% of all students. Almost 30% of all FUSD students met or exceeded math standards, but only 17% of Black students did.

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