Education Matters: African American student conference goes online, continues to make a difference


FRESNO, California (KSEE) – The annual African American student leadership conference is set to take place Tuesday. It’s a way for many students to kick off the celebration of Black History Month.

Hundreds of students are expected to participate in the virtual conference.

The numbers alone tell you a lot about the African American student leadership conference and just how much it has grown. It started 14 years ago in the Clovis Unified School District with 250 students.

“A group of community members came together and saw a need to give a space for black children to be empowered, be educated on who they are as young people but to also start a conversation and building a network of future leaders,” said Program Specialist Angie Barfield.

The conference is now a county-wide affair, with the five largest school districts participating. The Office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools hosts the event that has over 1,100 students attending.

“This conference is hopefully that kind of spark that ignites in every child that they can believe that they can do anything,” said Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino.

At the conference, they are able to engage with people who tell them they can achieve – and attend workshops that show them how.

“When you go to conference and you see all these successful people around you that look like you, it instills confidence in you that’s where you can be someday and it really pushes you to strive forward to be a better leader and a better person in general,” said student Brea Cooper.

The 17 year old high school senior has been attending the conference since she was a freshman. She says it has definitely helped her develop her leadership skills.

“This year I’m current BSU President as a senior and going to conference every year really helps our school build up our community and helps us really engage with one another.”

There is a huge emphasis on these students learning about their history and gaining an appreciation for those who came before them. Each year, the conference presents its legacy of excellence award to an important community member.

This years honoree is Mr. Robert Fox, a retired vice president and Dean of Student Services at Fresno City College. Although this years leadership conference will be virtual, students are still being encouraged to participate.

“Even though it’s virtual you’re going to leave the virtual experience just as inspired as if you were stepping into the conference in person,” said Brea.

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