More than 110 students from Pasadena City College and local high schools were admitted to historically black colleges and universities during a traveling college fair, which featured live DJ performances, food, and remarks from actor and producer Yara Shahidi.

Shahidi, an award-winning actress, producer and the breakout star of ABC’s Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated series black-ish, has been a Pasadena community member for nearly a decade. She shared that her brother was a dual enrollment student at PCC in high school, which set him up for success in college.

“I know firsthand the power of PCC in all of your individual journeys,” Shahidi said to the more than 600 students from PCC and local high schools gathered in the college’s quad for the Oct. 24 event. “I’m so excited for you.”

Shahidi currently serves as executive producer and lead of Freeform’s black-ish spinoff series, grown-ish. Offscreen, she is a champion for inclusive media programming, and an advocate for equity. She encouraged students to believe in themselves, follow their passions and dreams, and to lean on their community and support system as they take their next step at a university.

PCC’s On the Yard HBCU Caravan event connected students directly with representatives from more than 20 historically black colleges and universities, known as HBCUs, including Fisk University, Dillard University, and Tuskegee University.

Students and their families filled the quad at PCC for a chance to learn about the admissions process, financial aid, and student life at the participating HBCUs. Attendees enjoyed food, giveaways, and music curated by DJ Brian Henry, a Morehouse College alumnus.

PCC was one of 11 community colleges in California to be selected to host the touring HBCU Caravan. The event at PCC was presented in partnership with the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and PCC’s Transfer Center and Division of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Justice.

The HBCU Caravan is part of the California Community Colleges Transfer Guarantee Pathway to 
Historically Black Colleges & Universities, an initiative that aims to streamline the process for students to transfer from community colleges in California directly to an HBCU.

“We are so excited you are here to learn about all the HBCUs in attendance today,” Dr. Jose A. Gomez, interim superintendent-president of Pasadena City College, said to the students at the event. “Hopefully, you’ll even take advantage of some of their on-the-spot admissions. Yes, can you believe that? That means you can actually leave PCC today knowing that you are transferring to one of the top HBCUs in the country.”

About 60 PCC students and 54 local high school students were admitted to HBCUs during the fair, and nearly 90 students received scholarship offers along with their offers of admission.

Other speakers at the event included Pasadena Unified School District Board Member Patrice Marshall Mckenzie, John Muir High School Principal Lawton Gray, Arynn Auzout Settle, project director for the the CCC Transfer Guarantee Pathway to HBCUs initiative, and Tameka Alexander, associate dean for transfer and honors at PCC.

“PCC was proud to serve as one of the host sites for the California Community Colleges HBCU Caravan,” Alexander said. “The Transfer Center and the college will be working closely with students in the spring to support them in completing their final matriculation steps. We want to ensure they cross the transfer finish line.”

Leading up to the HBCU Caravan event, PCC hosted a lunch for 90 student-athletes, which featured giveaways, trivia about Black/African American history, and remarks by former WNBA player Lisa Willis and former NFL player Will Poole. The program was hosted by Dr. Kari Bolen, associate vice president and chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer; Candace Jones, assistant superintendent/vice president for business and administrative services, and Jackie Johnson, athletic director at PCC.

Micah Jernigan, a men’s basketball player at PCC, was admitted to Fort Valley State University and Fisk University during the HBCU Caravan.

“It’s cool to get admitted and be offered scholarship money, and it made me want to go to an HBCU even more,” Jernigan said.

Stephan G. McGrue, an education advisor with PCC’s TRIO Upward Bound program, said the high school students he works with enjoyed the event and were thrilled to be admitted to universities. At one point, a dual enrollment high school student ran up to McGrue and told him she was just admitted to Fisk University, her top choice school.

They bounced up and down in excitement with each other as the soulful sounds of the song “Before I Let Go,” filled the air, McGrue said, and they danced alongside the other students, staff, and community members gathered in the quad.

“I am a Pasadena native and a product of PUSD, and witnessing a student, who literally walked in the same community and the same schools I walked in, get an opportunity like this—it showed the progress being made for our students in our city,” McGrue said. “To see the impact, that we really are making a change—it was transformative.”