The names are synonymous with Black excellence — Howard, Hampton, Norfolk, and Morgan State — and two dozen local students will be immersed in that excellence when they depart Palm Springs during the early-morning hours of April 9.
The students, including nine from Palm Springs High School, are taking the trip of a lifetime, thanks to the leadership of the African American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) and the Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD). From the time they land April 9 until they depart April 15, a dozen young men and a dozen young women will get not only glimpses of what could be their future but a look at their history.
“They’re as excited about the museums as they are the colleges,” said Charlie Ervin Jr., president of AAPAC and a driving force behind the tour. “They want to find out about themselves.”
That’s music to the ears of Dr. Nicole Crawford, the coordinator of diversity and racial equity for PSUSD.
“(We) realize that our kids of color, especially our African-American students, face systemic and historic obstacles such as college preparedness,” Crawford said Tuesday. “By working with our AAPAC, we created PSUSD’s first-ever district-wide Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) tour.
“This HBCU trip is going to change our kids’ lives, and it will inspire our kids to achieve black excellence.”
During the weeklong tour of the Washington, DC, area, the students will visit four colleges — including Howard, Hampton, Norfolk, and Morgan State universities — and multiple monuments and museums. While piquing their interest in higher education is among the goals, it’s not the only one, according to Ervin.
“We had a script and asked them to write a few impromptu questions,” Ervin said, explaining the selection process. “Some of these turned out to be pages. We discovered some of the students never got Black history. We asked them, ‘Do you know five African-American heroes aside from Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.?’ Some of them couldn’t give us any other African-American heroes at all.”
Thanks to the efforts of Ervin, Crawford, and PSUSD Executive Director of Student Learning Mark Arnold, history lessons the students are about to learn are free. The entire trip is paid for with Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) funds. The LCAP allows school districts to put aside money to support goals such as student achievement, specific programs, and parent involvement.
Involvement is nothing new for Ervin, a father to two sons — a middle schooler and kindergartener — who attend district schools. He’s a familiar face to anyone who follows local causes and the Palm Springs Planning Commission, to which he was appointed in 2020. He charted the group’s course personally, spending countless hours mapping stops, booking hotel rooms, and arranging flights.
“The hardest part was figuring out the different locations,” he explained. “Especially considering we are in Covid. That had me even more worried.”
The effort will be worth it, Ervin said, if even one student realizes their potential — something he struggled with growing up, just like many students from working-class neighborhoods.
“I never dreamed about going to college,” he said. “My family was working. All that was expected of me was to graduate high school and go look for a job.”
You can help: While the trip is completely funded, organizers said they hope to give each student some money to purchase souvenirs or sweaters from the colleges they visit. To pitch in, contact [email protected] or [email protected]. Visit the AAPAC Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AAPACPSUSD