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Cal Poly Pomona program fosters inclusive environment

Cal Poly Pomona program fosters inclusive environment

POMONA, Calif.  Out of nearly 27,000 students enrolled at Cal Poly Pomona, only around 850 are Black.

What you need to know

  • “The Shop Talk” is part of Black Men of Excellence initiative
  • It’s a monthly series that brings together faculty and students of color on Cal Poly Pomona’s campus
  • Staff say that the pilot program has been so successful that they plan to launch similar initiatives on campus to target other minorities.

Many students feel uncomfortable because of the lack of diversity. Staff have created a new program called Black Men of Excellence to address this issue. It provides a safe space for students.

The Black community’s mainstay is the barbershop. For many Black men, it is a place that can even be considered therapy. Justyn Fulton 22, a 22-year-old, said that he feels like an entirely new man after getting a haircut. However, Justyn Fulton said that this is the only place he can talk about his identity and what he wants to be.

This is how we get all our young brothers out there. Fulton explained that all you need to do is get a haircut.

It’s called shop talk. It’s a safe place where men can see themselves in one another. However, it is rare for students to get a professional haircut at their college campus. Fulton said that the new program will bring barbers to them. He also said that this is the only place where he can be free from the discrimination and stereotypes that he will face once he steps outside the room.

He said, “It is painful.” As I said, we just need to keep building bridges and moving forward.

Fulton said Cal Poly Pomona desperately needs unity. Fulton, a communications major, stated that he and his classmates felt isolated by students and staff from Black students.

Fulton brought the issue to Reggie Robles, senior coordinator of male success programs. He was inspired to take action and partner with James Rocker to create the Black Men of Excellence initiative, which includes The Shop Talk. It’s a pilot program that brings together Black faculty and students on campus once per month.

I am also an alumni. So, coming back after many decades and now, taking over this role, I saw the need to create a space Black men, Robles stated.

Robles identifies Mexican, and had a very positive college experience at Cal Poly Pomona. However, Robles knew that he had to solve a problem he heard about from several Black students.

They offer free haircuts by local barbers. Additionally, they select Black faculty to lead discussions about topics such as mentorship, identity, and leadership.

Ronald Whitenhill, Cal Polys assistant vice president for outreach and educational partnership, led a conversation about career readiness.

Someone needs to tell them that the skills you learned in undergrad are still applicable. Whitenhill explained that the same thing you do today is what I do every day.

He stated that the more they can connect, the greater their chance of success. Statistics show that less than 20% of Black students at Cal Poly graduate in four years.

Robles is determined not to give up and is determined to finish the fall.

He said that if you are a minority on campus, you must be able to rely on each other.

Staff say the pilot program has been so successful, they plan to launch similar initiatives on campus to target other minorities.

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