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Conference Encourages Minority Students to Continue Education
Robert Ahman Williams sat back in his chair, scanned the scores of students eating lunch at the 4th annual HUBU Conference, and declared the MiraCosta College event a success.
“This is inspiring,” the Oceanside resident said. “It provides a great sense of unity and brotherhood among African-American and Latino males who must overcome common obstacles to achieve success.”
Williams was one of more than 100 students from community colleges in San Diego and Imperial counties who attended the conference’s numerous workshops. The conference was aimed at motivating students of color to further their education, and providing them the support to help ensure their success.
The March 22 event marked the first time the Hermanos Unidos/Brothers United conference was held at MiraCosta College. The first three conferences were at City College in San Diego. Next year’s event is slated for Southwestern College in Chula Vista.
The day began with an inspirational address from MiraCosta College Superintendent/President Dr. Francisco Rodriguez, who talked about “a sense of urgency” in boosting the numbers of black and brown men who secure a higher education.
“This conference is an opportunity to begin,” Dr. Rodriguez said, who noted that nearly two-thirds of the prison population is comprised of black and Latino men, yet only a fraction of college students are black and Latino.
He told those in the audience to pursue a degree, make a home in the library, and take a step forward with a sense of belonging and achievement. “Every step you take is one step closer to the goals and dreams that you have.”
Dr. Rodriguez also debunked stereotypes of blacks and Latinos as often warring factions who are averse to work. He detailed the groups’ common values – from food, family, and music to sacrificing for family. African-Americans and Latinos, Dr. Rodriguez added, “are folks who have worked in the fields, and we understand what backbreaking work is.”
Several workshops followed, including those titled “One America – A Discussion on Cultural Diversity & Race;” “De la Misma Raiz, From the Same Root: Overcoming the Black & Brown Divide;” “A Conversation about College Success;” and “How to Be a Better Man.”
Douglas E. Luffborough, III, who serves as president of the Chula Vista Elementary School District’s board of trustees and who works at the Turning the Hearts Center, a Chula Vista-based nonprofit, led the “One America – A Discussion on Cultural Diversity & Race” workshop. Luffborough asked the several dozen students taking part to discuss the struggles they’ve had to overcome, then he talked about his journey. The Detroit native said he was involved with gangs while in high school and was homeless for a while as a youth. A school counselor told him he was not college material.
“The voice I listened to was the one that said I needed to go to college and get an education and be the first in my family to get a higher education,” he said.
Luffborough earned a business and human resources management degree from Northeastern University in Boston and a master’s degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. He is now earning his Ph.D. from the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership Studies with a concentration in nonprofit management and leadership counseling.
Luffborough urged students to “find a mentor that you want to be like. Find someone who challenges you, but who also cares about you.” And, he added, follow through on your goals. “You can’t just say you’re going to go to college. You have to be in college. You have to be college.”
In other words, Luffborough said, “Walk your talk.”
During a panel discussion that concluded the day’s events, Jeffrey Carr, chief diversity officer at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, said black and brown students must work together “to overcome the inequalities that are still rampant in our communities.”
Added Luffborough: “A lot of us who are here have been conditioned to accept a lack of unity.”
Cory Allen, a San Diego resident who was seated at the same table as Robert Ahman Williams during lunch, said he went to last year’s HUBU conference and was glad he made it to this year’s, too. “It’s been very inspirational,” he said. “They’ve provided us with a lot tools, a lot to think about, a lot of valuable lessons.”