CSU Event Inspires Stan State Students
December 14, 2023

California State University’s annual Young Males of Color Consortium is dedicated to making systemic changes in higher education to improve outcomes for young men of color, and to explore the challenges those young men face and how to better support them.

On a more personal level, it offers hope, inspiration and encouragement as students and adults share stories of their experiences and successes, and it creates an atmosphere for connecting with fellow CSU students.

Student participants and representatives from Stan State gathered together for a group photo at the consortium.

Stanislaus State second-year student Victor Lopez, who works in the Warrior Cross Cultural Center (WCCC) and is a former mentee of the Male Success Initiative (MSI), not only realized others face similar challenges to his own, but he left the event focused on how MSI can better engage and help students.

Tory Sumbler had never connected with MSI, but the vice president of the Black Student Union was invited by WCCC Director Carolina Alfaro to attend the consortium, and weeks later is wrestling with what he learned.

The most important takeaway for me was understanding and finding my why,” said Sumbler, a biology major with dreams of attending medical school. “The breakout session I wanted to attend was ‘What is Your Why?’ If someone asks me what’s my why, I feel like I should be able to say it off the top of my head. The question they were asking about what we were doing on campus, whether for BSU or MSI, was, ‘Why are you doing this?’

“Why am I struggling with this question? Why can’t I answer the reason ‘why’ for my career goals? That was a pivotal step for me at that conference. I understand the big why but what’s my why? I’m still working on it.”

Lopez’s greatest takeaway was how he could do more. He is fully engaged with MSI and understands its mission to connect men of color with services and support their educational progress. Still, the product of Avenal said the conference, which meant taking his first airplane trip and first venture outside of the Central Valley, was eye-opening.

“Being at that consortium, seeing people like me, who understand me, seeing everyone exchanging ideas, sharing their stories, being free to do so and feeling safe to do so is something I want to push for at Stan State for African Americans and other students.”

- Tory Sumbler, Student

“It empowered me,” said Lopez, a second-year student who arrived at Stan State last year out of high school but had already completed an associate degree in agriculture while in high school through the Wonderful Company’s Wonderful Education Career Pathways Program. “Going into the consortium, I wasn’t as much of an advocate of what we’re doing. It shocked me how many people were devoted to the matter; advocating for students of color to graduate and pursue higher education. What is stopping them from graduating? Why aren’t men of color attending colleges? What system do we target? Is it the school system or our environment?”

He’s recommitted to extending Stan State’s reach to fellow male students of color.

A business major, Lopez also is a member of College Corps and volunteers on a food delivery truck for the United Samaritans Foundation. It’s work that has him contemplating using his degree to help others.

It seems to be his calling. The eldest of five children, Lopez joined the Wonderful program to set an example for his siblings.

Not only does helping others seem to be in his future, so does more education.

“I might get a master’s degree,” Lopez said. “It’s because of conversations with other graduates at the consortium who are now working on toward graduate degrees. They said we need more young men of color not only going to college, but also going on to a master’s or doctorate program.”

Conversations with fellow students, both with those from Stan State and other universities, also were relevant to Sumbler.

When he agreed to attend the conference, Sumbler thought it would be a recitation of the history of the struggle for young men of color to move forward.

“It dove a little into that, but it dove deeper into what we can do now,” Sumbler said. “It gave me some ideas. It made me feel there could be a place like that here. It created a vision of a big room for all people, sharing, having fun.”

A Black Ball and a scaled down one-day consortium at Stan State, organized in collaboration with leaders from other local CSU campuses, are among ideas he’s contemplating.

If the students were surprised by the consortium changing them, Alfaro wasn’t.

“Each time our students attend a CSU Young Males of Color Consortium, they are immediately inspired by other students and leaders across the CSU who all have unique and uplifting success stories,” Alfaro said. “Our students also gain confidence in themselves to be future leaders and role models for the younger men of color that follow.”

Equally inspired was recently named MSI coordinator Sergio Cuellar, who had previously attended the consortium as part of his work with California Funders for Boys and Men of Color.

“I’m taking away from this year’s conference a vision for developing a mentoring program that uplifts the success of our male identifying students of color on campus, that brings alumni back to share wisdom and build networks and a pipeline to a successful transition from college to careers and their leadership,” Cuellar said.