CSUSB opens First People’s Center for indigenous students

Photo courtesy Robert Whitehead/CSUSB: University officials, students and community members celebrated the grand opening of the CSUSB First People’s Center on Sept. 22. From left: San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Ted Alejandre; 3rd District County Supervisor and Director of the California Indian Cultural Awareness Conference James Ramos; CSUSB student and member of the Native American and Indigenous Student Association Shirley “Kippi” Begay; CSUSB student Mario Castellanos, CSUSB President Tomás Morales, and San Bernardino City Unified School District Board of Education President Dr. Margaret Hill. Back row: San Bernardino City Mayor Carey Davis and Assemblymember Eloise Reyes (names of other individuals not readily available at time of publication).
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Cal State San Bernardino hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the university’s First People’s Center, dedicated to supporting the academic achievement and personal success of indigenous students, while celebrating their traditional heritage. The ceremony, held in the Cross Cultural Center of the university’s Santos Manuel Student Union on Sept. 22, was standing room only.

“This is a proud and exciting moment for our university. Today we welcome a tremendous new addition to CSUSB, a significant expansion to the resources available to our students, our campus and the entire community,” said university President Tomás D. Morales.

First People, also known as American Indians, Alaska natives and native Hawaiians, are considered sovereign nations from their first interactions with European settlers.

The First People’s Center is dedicated to the social and personal success of students with the support of staff, faculty and community members of local clans and cities. The center will provide a welcoming, diverse and culturally sensitive environment to all of CSUSB’s student body.

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“Here at CSUSB we strive to create a community that welcomes, celebrates, promotes and respects all individuals. Diversity and inclusion we believe fosters academic success,” said Brian Haynes, vice president of the university’s Division of Student Affairs. “We also know that learning from people from diverse backgrounds encourages collaboration and innovation, which benefits all students.”

The center’s goals are to:

· Create innovative learning-centered opportunities to develop students into becoming leaders in global society;

· Provide support to First People students at Cal State San Bernardino;

· Provide information on current issues pertaining to the First People;

· Provide cultural awareness; and

· Serve as a resource to the campus community on First People culture and issues.

Morales said the center is part of CSUSB’s “rich tradition of providing quality education in an environment that reflects the dynamic diversity of this region.”

“Over the past several months we have seen changes in attitudes and legislative directives, both in our country and around the world. Recognizing there are many challenges ahead, now is a time for unity, for strength and a commitment to all members of our communities,” Morales said. “Let me say again, here and now – this university will continue to support our students. We are committed to ensuring each one is welcomed, respected and valued.”

The FPC is the second such center among the colleges and universities in the Inland Empire. It will encompass various programs from sister CSU campuses to cater to the needs and serve as an additional resource to the First People students as well as all CSUSB students.

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