“Black Student Success Center” in the works for ARC

Both Nick Daily and Tera Reynolds have been working on building a virtual space for Black students

(Logo courtesy of Tera Reynolds)

(Logo courtesy of Tera Reynolds)

Thomas Cathey, Managing Editor

Staff members Nick Daily and Tera Reynolds are currently in the process of developing a virtual (for now) “Black Student Success Center” for American River College, which is expected to debut sometime in the spring.

According to Daily, interim dean of Equity and Inclusion at ARC, the Black Student Success Center had been an idea for quite some time. In 2019, the Student Success Council at ARC sponsored a project team to explore disproportionate impact among minorities on campus. The team was divided into three subsects, one with an emphasis on African-American disproportionate impact, one for Latinx, and another for Native American emphasis.

“They went on two semesters of research and surveyed students to hear about their specific experiences related to inclusion, engagement, and success, and what they felt would help,” Daily said.

After the research and surveys were completed, an extensive report was written, which featured a “Highlight of Recommendations” on the eighth page for the African-American emphasis portion of the report. One of the bullet point recommendations read: “Identify a dedicated space with support staff for Black and African-American students to build community, access resources, affirm identity, and cultivate connections to students, faculty, and staff.”

With that came the idea of the “Black Student Success Center,” which is the working title of the “dedicated space”.

But then came 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a campus shutdown, which would seemingly halt any plans to create this space for Black and African-American students. However, after the many high-profile cases of police brutality against African Americans this year—killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, along with others—the Los Rios Community College District wanted to push forward with those plans anyway.

“All of the institutions in the district made the commitment that Black Lives Matter, and articulated that commitment to Black students,” Daily said. “As a result of that, they decided to advance the Disproportionate Impact team’s recommendations, even during COVID. So there was a desire to create a coordinator position to help create the virtual ‘Black student success center.’”

With help from the dual enrollment outreach program at ARC, Daily and Reynolds—who is the dual enrollment outreach coordinator (and now the Black Student Success faculty coordinator)—were able to better advocate for the creation of the center.

“There was a desire to have that position work with our dual enrollment program so that we could create a pipeline from students from our high schools that we’re working with, as well our Black student population on campus,” Daily said. “And through some advocacy from Tera and I, we were able to make sure that the focus was more on the Black student success part as opposed to the dual enrollment part.”

According to Daily, the “Black Student Success Center” became official in October, which is around the time that he and Reynolds began working on a website for the dedicated virtual space. Reynolds is well aware of the challenges that come with setting this project up during the pandemic and is determined to work around it.

“In the development of the virtual space, we wanted to offer the ideas that we would offer in a physical space until we’re back on campus,” Reynolds said. “So that’s something we wanted to keep on our mind while we were developing this, ‘what would we want to see in a Black Student
Success Center [if it were on campus]?”

Daily says the foundation of the website consists of five major focuses, which creates the acronym BLACK: Black, Leadership, Academics, Culture, and Knowledge. Ideally, the website would be a place for Black and African-American students to learn more about their culture, have access to links that contain resources that specialize in Black wellness (safe spaces, therapy, etc.), and have better access to Black mentors and leaders in their community to help themselves succeed in college.

“We also imagine that’s how we’d structure programming,” Daily said. “So we’ll be doing Black wellness programs that invite some Black mental health professionals, or inviting Black people to talk about how they access wellness during COVID. Or maybe we work with the health center for mental health awareness.”

Since this virtual space is being constructed during a pandemic, the tools and resources needed to do so are quite limited.

“The biggest thing during COVID is leveraging resources,” Reynolds said. “There’s no Black dollars, Black budget, or full allocations during this time, so we had to figure out how to leverage resources to make this happen.”

Though there are some limitations and hurdles to overcome, significant progress is being made on the website, which is expected to launch sometime in the spring.

Students anticipating the launch of the “Black Student Success Center” can check the Current’s homepage for any new developments.