African American Student Voices to Be Featured at White House Summit at UC Davis

Two men talk at a table
Kayton Carter (left), director of strategic African-American retention initiatives at UC Davis, talks with senior Brandon Coleman at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo)

Quick Summary

  • Aimed at African American achievement gap
  • Includes spoken-word performance
  • Showcases new student success center

African American students will speak about what they need to succeed in education at a White House Summit on Educational Excellence for African Americans, hosted by the University of California, Davis, on April 6.

The California Student Aid Commission and UC Davis are partnering with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans to present the event as part of President Obama’s initiative to identify best practices for improving African American student achievement and develop a national network for sharing them.

The by-invitation-only event is expected to draw together about 250 students, educators, community leaders, policymakers and others. It will be available to livestream.

Topics include campus climate, financial aid

Students from UC Davis, Sacramento State University, Sacramento City College and area high schools will be featured in two panel discussions, the first about feeling safe, engaged and supported on campus, and the second, on retention, financial aid and student support.

“Students need to have our voices heard so that we can help to shape the solutions on our campuses and beyond,” said Mariah Watson, who just concluded her term as the first female African American president of the Associated Students of UC Davis. The international relations and philosophy major will be a panelist for the discussion about campus climate.

Initiative aims to close achievement gap

David J. Johns, executive director of the White House initiative, said the initiative aims to address the achievement gap between African American and white students in reading and math proficiency, high school completion and college graduation.

“We’re hopeful that the summit will contribute to improvements in both policy and practice,” said Johns, who will emcee the event and moderate the first discussion and a community forum that will be a call to action.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said UC Davis is a top-ranked, world-class research university, but its ability to fully achieve excellence happens only when all students have an opportunity to succeed. “Hosting the White House summit is an honor for UC Davis and a wonderful complement to some of the initiatives we’ve put in place to help our students achieve their goals,” she said.

Lupita Cortez Alcalá is the executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, the primary state agency for the administration of state-authorized student financial aid programs. “The Commission offers $2 billion in Cal Grants for low-income and first-generation students to attend California colleges and universities and $116 million in middle-class scholarships,” she said. “With this financial support, students should be better able to focus on academic achievement.”

Summit program

The summit program, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., will include a spoken-word performance by students from Sacramento Area Youth Speaks, a critical literacy program based at UC Davis.

After the summit, a reception will showcase the new Center for African Diaspora Student Success, the heart of a comprehensive set of new and expanded initiatives to support the recruitment and retention of African American students at UC Davis.

The UC Davis initiatives are part of a comprehensive campus effort to increase support for the academic success of historically underrepresented groups — African American, Chicano/Latino and Native American — and reducing the time necessary for all students to complete their degree.

Media Resources

Milton Lang, Student Affairs, 530-752-8787,

Patti Colston, California Student Aid Commission, 916-464-8043,

Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248,

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