Caleb Richards, a first-generation college student, advises fellow African American students to use all resources at their disposal in their quest to gain a college education.

“I want people to know that college is affordable,” Richards said. “About 80% of students in the CSU system are eligible for financial aid. A lot of people cancel plans of going to college because it is too expensive, but they don’t know that there are things like financial aid that could help them.”

Richards will be one of several Fresno State representatives taking part in CSU Super Sunday on Feb. 23 at worship services at eight local, predominantly black churches. Super Sunday is the flagship event of the California State University African American Initiative, which focuses on college achievement for African American students.

Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro and first lady Mary Castro will attend the service at St. Joseph Baptist Church (1036 Martin Ave., Fresno), where Castro will deliver a keynote address to the congregation. Martina Granados, director of Outreach and Special Programs at Fresno State, will also attend the service. Worship led by Pastor Calvin Moore will begin at 10:30 a.m.

“One of the most rewarding experiences of serving as Fresno State’s president,” Castro said, “is connecting with prospective students and their families from all of our communities as I continue to share the important message about how a college degree can lead to life-changing and transformative opportunities for students, their families and communities.”

For more than a decade, the CSU has partnered with faith-based leaders to host Super Sunday during February.​ CSU leaders bring an empowering message to churches throughout California about the importance of preparing for college.

Several other local churches are also participating:

  • Family Community Church (Pastor Chester McGensy, 2434 E. Nees Ave., Fresno) will have two services this year for Super Sunday. At the 9 a.m. service, Davion Baker, coordinator of the Office of Black Student Success at Fresno State, will speak; Lynnette Brown, president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association, will speak at the 11 a.m. service.
  • Richards, who expects to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in criminology in May, will speak at Olive Baptist Church at 10:30 a.m. (Pastor Edward Lee, 101 W. Clinton Ave.). Wendy Nelson, coordinator of the African American Initiative which is housed out of the Outreach and Special Programs Office, and a member of the Mt. Olive congregation, will also attend.
  • Rest Baptist Church, 11 a.m. (Pastor D.J. Criner, 1550 E. Rev. Chester Riggins Ave., Fresno).
  • Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, 11 a.m. (Pastor Kevin E. Stafford, 2529 E. Belmont Ave.).
  • Second Baptist Church, 11 a.m. (Pastor Lawrence Clinkscales, 1041 E. Jensen Ave., Fresno).
  • Hopewell Baptist Church, 11 a.m. (Pastor Sylvester Smith, 2627 S. Marks Ave.).
  • Carter Memorial AME Church, 11 a.m. (Pastor Dominic L. Holland, 940 Waterman Ave., Fresno).

After the services, parents and students will meet with the speakers, alumni and University outreach counselors to receive CSU resources that help students and families foster a college-going culture at home, including information about preparing for college, applying to a CSU campus and applying for financial aid, Nelson said.

The eight local churches are part of almost 100 predominately African American congregations statewide that are participating in CSU Super Sunday. During the event, CSU leaders visit these congregations and speak directly from the pulpit to encourage future students to pursue higher education. It is estimated that the CSU has reached nearly 1 million students and their families through Super Sunday over the past decade.

CSU Super Sunday is one of many events supported by the CSU to increase the preparation, retention and graduation of African American students. The year-round partnership between the CSU and African American community leaders throughout the state provides additional outreach, support and preparation, such as campus college and career fairs, financial aid completion workshops, Cal State Apply clinics and more.

In the fall 2019 semester, 2.6% or about 637 students at Fresno State were African American.

“It’s never too early to be prepared for college, and it’s never too late to go back to college,” said Richards, who plans to continue toward a graduate degree after commencement so he can teach criminology. “The thing that I would recommend most to African American students is to use your resources. At Fresno State, we have a lot of resources for students to use from the Writing Center, Office of Black Students Success, the Cross Cultural and Gender Center and the Educational Opportunity Program.”

For more information, contact Wendy Nelson at or 559.278.5374.