Austin Gage | California Black Media

(CBM) – After a 3-year hiatus, the 12-member California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) held its “African American Leaders for Tomorrow Program” (AALT) on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills CSUDH.

From July 20 to 23, the CLBC brought together high school students from throughout California for a series of workshops and social activities aimed at preparing the next generation of leaders in African American communities in fields such as business, government and non-profit advocacy.

According to the CLBC website, the primary goal of the program “is to “build a bench” of young leaders who will lead California in solving issues of protecting voter rights, increasing access to higher education and career training through dual enrollment, reducing poverty rates, increasing living-wage employment, participating in criminal justice evolution, increasing quality and equity in healthcare, and reducing high infant mortality rates, in the lower-socioeconomic communities.”

Sixty high school students whose applications were chosen to participate in the program were provided an on-campus immersion experience. They lived in the CSUDH dorms and ate in the campus dining common.

State Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and CLBC Chairman welcomed the students to the program and reiterated the reasoning for the program’s existence.

“I learned long ago that your education is the most important investment you make in yourself,” said Bradford, “We hope that our students learn and evolve from this opportunity. That they leave with skills and knowledge that they find useful in their educational and future endeavors. Our commitment is to prepare the next generation of African American leaders for whatever the future holds.”

Also welcoming the students were CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham and California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber. Los Angeles mayoral candidate and Congresswoman Karen Bass, who represents California’s 37th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, and actress and comedian Kim Whitley provided video messages to the students.

Actress and dancer Debbie Allen and retired professional basketball player Norm Nixon gave the opening remarks at the program’s dinner to the students.

Six major workshops were held where the students interacted with CLBC members and experienced professionals from corporations such as The Education Trust-West, Snap Inc. and J.S. Held. The workshop topics were civic engagement, dual enrollment, STEM/technology as a career, leadership development, financial education and college knowledge.

Faculty at CSUDH and the Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute also played key roles a huge role in the execution the program. Parham along with Dr. Justin Gammage, and other members of the university lectured the students on topics such as mental wellness and selfcare in addition to the workshops and panels. On the last day of the program, students participated in a mock committee hearing about AB3121, the bill that established California’s Reparations Task Force.

CLBC members Assemblymembers Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) and Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City) helped wrap up the program and handed out certificates of recognition to participants in the program.

CLBC member Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D- San Diego), reflecting on the program said “For three days, high school students get to stay on a college campus and get immersed in a unique learning environment that will prepare them for successful transition to higher education, job seeking, budgeting and leadership.”

The AALT serves as a cultivating ground for the youth and helps them understand what they may want to focus on for their future careers. Another CLBC member attending the program, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), shared Weber’s perspective.

“The African American Leaders of Tomorrow program was created to prepare the youth of today for their careers by

exposing them to legislative process, encouraging critical thinking and helping them discover their passions,” Holden said.

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