CSULB Black Alumni Scholarship, donors strengthen opportunity, inclusion

Published June 4, 2024

Graduate student Joshua James, one of the recipients of the campus’ Black Alumni Scholarship, is pursuing a master’s degree preparing him for a career in student services and could very well end up personifying the ideal of paying it forward.

“I know I want to continue to help students, especially first-generation, low-income, students who have similar identities to me,” James said.

James, who grew up in Long Beach, enrolled at The Beach in 2021 with the goal of earning a Master of Science in Counseling, Student Development in Higher Education. He aspires to help future collegians after completing his degree, a development that would effectively result in James’ scholarship having a positive ripple effect for many others. 

James is learning about topics including individual, group and cross-cultural counseling, organizational leadership and career development. He is already working in student services at two community colleges: Long Beach City College and Cerritos College. In addition to helping with the costs of his graduate degree, James' scholarship also provides an avenue to meet alumni and donors who invested in Black students’ long-term success.

“I feel more connected to Long Beach more than ever, especially Black Long Beach” he said. “I really feel like I’m embraced and loved in the community.”

Celebrating Black alumni and leaders

The Black Alumni Scholarship is among The Beach’s many tools boosting inclusion and is open to students of any background who are members of the Black Resource Center. The annual Black Alumni Scholars Gala, the most recent of which took place May 5 at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, is the major funding source sustaining the scholarship.

The gala is also an occasion to honor outstanding alumni and leaders among Black campus supporters living in the Long Beach area. This year’s honorees are April Parker, Community Partner of the Year; Cecile Harris Walters ‘09, Alumna of the Year; James Breedlove ‘93, Alumnus of the Year; Uduak Joe-Ntuk ‘06, Change Agent Alumnus of the Year; Sharon and David McLucas, Community Change Agents and Evelyn Knight, Lifetime Achievement Award.  

Walters earned her Master of Public Administration from The Beach after completing her bachelor’s degree here. She served for more than three decades in Long Beach’s city government in multiple roles and at the gala, she announced her commitment to create an endowed scholarship via a legacy gift.

“My hope for future honorees is to bless students and support their goals,” Walters said.  “Consider an endowed scholarship for students who bring Black excellence in all that they do and represent.”

Walters was among the many donors who supported the inaugural Black Alumni Scholars Gala, which took place in 2021 as a virtual affair. Now with four years’ worth of galas in the books, the events and related fundraising efforts have raised more than $257,000, helping more than 50 students receive more than $76,000 worth of in scholarship awards. 

And the scholarship provides more than money. James and other awardees can also attend events like the gala, listen to guest speakers, meet with Beach alumni and donors and find mentors.

“There are people out there who are willing to help them, that’s what they’ve got to know,” said supporter Roberta Jenkins, ‘22 who holds an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from The Beach.

“People are out there who are willing to help, but you’ve got to ask,” continued Jenkins, a dedicated supporter of several Beach programs, including math education, the Black Alumni Scholarship and School of the Arts.

Creating a national model for student achievement, empowerment and equity is one of the key pillars supporting No Barriers, Cal State Long Beach’s fundraising campaign, which has raised more than $275 million. Beach faculty and staff contribute to an inclusive campus where students can receive scholarships and other forms of support enabling them to concentrate on academics and extracurricular activities.

“It’s a very universal appeal,” said another donor, Southern California psychiatrist John Sealy. “I think anybody can identify with someone who’s trying to go to school, higher education, and doesn’t have the resources,” Sealy said.

Cal State Long Beach, with support from the California State University Chancellor’s Office, is undertaking new actions to encourage Black enrollment and persistence. The faculty and staff members who recently formed new Black Excellence Collegium are commissioned to advise colleagues implementing a quartet of Black Student Success initiatives over this and the coming years.

Collecting experiences, building connections

Helping students to afford higher education – or the financial challenges that may emerge over the course of an enrollment – motivated Black faculty members and John Hamilton, formerly The Beach’s associate vice president of student success and equity, to create the Black Alumni Scholarship. Hamilton now serves as the California State University system’s assistant vice chancellor for strategic partnerships and student success initiatives.  

Before his time as scholarship student here at Cal State Long Beach, James earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Cal State Fullerton in 2018 where he “just loved the college experience” and served as a residential advisor and tour guide.

Since then, James gained experience in a variety of fields. He has interned with a National Association of Student Personnel Administrators program at North Carolina State University and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He has also worked for The Beach as an assistant residential life coordinator and, off-campus, as a gondolier in the canals near Naples Island. He also wanted to find every possible scholarship that could cover the costs of a graduate degree.

James also remarked how the Black Alumni Scholarship has helped him to meet friends of The Beach who want him to do well. Attending the Black Alumni Scholarship Gala and other functions let scholarship recipients enrich their academic work with opportunities to encounter people who James referred to as “the movers and shakers of Long Beach.”  

“Everybody has been really good about introducing me to somebody else who could potentially help me in the long run,” James said. “I’m really grateful to the donors of the Black Alumni Scholarship. It’s been really helpful to try to accomplish the things I want to do in school.”