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Cal Poly Pomona’s program promotes an inclusive environment

Cal Poly Pomona’s program promotes an 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 Black students and faculty at 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 say that the campus lacks diversity. Staff created Black Men of Excellence as a program to provide a safe environment for students in order to address this problem.

The Barbershop is a vital part of the Black community. For many Black men, the barbershop is like 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 of our young brothers here. 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 stated that this program will bring barbers to their campus, and that he doesn’t have to be subject to discrimination or stereotypes as soon as he steps outside the room.

It is difficult, he said. As I said, we just need to keep building the bridges and moving forward.

Fulton said Cal Poly Pomona desperately needs unity. The communications major, who is one of 3% of Black students at Cal Poly Pomona, said that he and his classmates feel isolated and unwelcome by staff and students of different races.

Fulton brought this issue straight to Reggie Robles who, inspired by Fulton’s example, teamed up with James Rocker and created the Black Men of Excellence initiative that includes The Shop Talk. It is a pilot program that brings together Black students and faculty on campus once a months.

I am also an alumnus, so when I returned after many years, I felt the need to create a space that was accessible to Black men. Robles said.

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 also offer free haircuts from local barbers. Black faculty are invited to lead discussions on topics like identity, mentor, and leadership.

Ronald Whitenhill (Cal Polys Assistant VP for Outreach and Educational Partnerships), led a recent conversation about career readiness.

Tell them early that the skills you have in your undergrad classroom are applicable. Whitenhill explained that the same thing you do today is what I do every day.

He said that the greater their connections, the better their chances 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 says that Robles will finish the fall.

He added that it is important to be able and willing to depend on one another when you are a minority student on campus.

Staff claim that the pilot program was so successful that they are planning to launch similar initiatives for other minorities on campus.

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