Dr. Shaunte Knox, left, received an award of recognition for organizing the conference. (Courtesy photo)

On Tuesday, January 24, Compton Unified School District hosted its First Annual Black Student Achievement College and Career Conference.  This monumental event, held at the Douglas F. Dollarhide Community Center, was planned, organized and executed by Dr. Shaunte Knox, CUSD director of Black Student Achievement.

The conference was an overwhelming success.  Over 300 students participated from Compton High School, Dominguez High School, Centennial High School, Compton Early College High School and Enterprise Middle School.  More than 30 mentors and presenters attended and represented a wide range of career professions such as law enforcement, aerospace engineering, fire service, probation, law, education, medicine, dentistry, business, banking, military service and human resources.

Also present were university representatives from 30 institutions, including Johnson C. Smith, Tuskegee, FAMU, Fisk, Paul Quinn, Fort Valley State, Alabama A&M, Texas Southern, and Bennett College offering on the spot acceptances to many students who qualified.  Compton Community College was there as well to promote their dual enrollment program where students are able to take college courses and receive credit while they are still in high school.

Jorge Torres, left, CUSD college and career advisor, assists students as they receive on the spot HBCU acceptances. (Courtesy photo

The program opened with the Centennial High School Marching Band performing an energetic and exciting routine for the participants as they entered the venue.  Dr. Knox then gave the students a warm welcome and greeting where they were introduced to all of the panelists.

The students heard an address by Denzell Perry, a CUSD board member and trustee.  Perry spoke eloquently to the students about looking inward, identifying goals, and taking this great opportunity for networking and unleashing the potential for greatness that they all hold within.  After the greeting and keynote, the students were free to visit a variety of tables and information stations to interact with the array of career professionals.

Attorney Gary Farwell speaks to students about pursuing careers in law. (Courtesy photo)

During the lunch period, which was catered by local vendors, the students were treated to a Step Show performed by the Divine 9 fraternity organization as well as a helicopter flyover by Robin Petgrave, the esteemed pilot and flight instructor who is an institution at the Compton Airport.

After the flyover, Petgrave gave students an interactive discussion about the workings of a helicopter, which inspired many to consider a career in aeronautics.  After lunch, the students participated in the College Fair segment where they interacted with representatives from HBCU institutions.

“The Black Student Achievement College and Career Conference was an opportunity to celebrate inspire and propel Black students to reach the acme of their potential.  One way to do this is to show the students how success looks and provide them with the steps and supports needed to get there.  Education and access changes everything,” said Dr. Knox.

4 – Centennial High School Marching Band perform their opening routine. (Courtesy photo)

The students’ response to attending the conference ranged from humble to attentive to inquisitive and appreciative. Ikeiley Bradley, a 10th grade student stated, “We got to experience many colleges and see what they offer, and discover what we want to do after high school.  I really liked the experience.”

Dominique Sims, a 12th grade student, said, “What I enjoyed the most about today is everybody coming together and being able to see different colleges and get accepted on the spot.”

Terry Gray, a 12th grade student, reflected, “It feels good to know that they actually care about whether we go to college or not.  It feels good to know that they are actually setting us up to get scholarships and giving us the stepping stones we need to get to where we want to go.  It feels good to know that the Compton Unified School District really does care about their students.”

Reacting to the overwhelming atmosphere of engagement, community, pride and empowerment at the event, a presenter said, “The future of the Black students in Compton is bright, and we applaud the efforts of the Compton Unified School District’s Department of Black Student Achievement to provide students with experiences like this which add enrichment and access to their lives.”