Project Best High School Scholars Experience APU

by Keith Hall, Ed.D.

High school juniors and seniors from Kern County excitedly filed out of a charter bus onto the bustling Azusa Pacific University campus, ready to explore and learn about college success. The ambitious group of Project Best scholars buzzed with great enthusiasm, energy, and curiosity. Project Best is a high school program aimed at increasing college access and success for traditionally underrepresented students in Kern County. APU recently formed a partnership with Kern High School District, which includes 18 schools and more than 39,000 students. APU guarantees admittance and at least $10,000 in financial aid to Kern County students who meet requirements. This district joins 22 other school districts and 12 private high schools that partner with APU in an effort to promote access and development.

The Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence and the Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity collaborated with Undergraduate Admissions, the Black Faculty, Staff, and Administrators Association (BFSAA), and APU's Black Student Association (BSA) to organize a full itinerary for the high school students, including campus tours led by undergraduate student ambassadors and impactful conversations with black faculty and staff over lunch. Throughout the day, the students participated in discussions about holistic student success, financial literacy, and the value of Christian higher education. In addition, BSA members shared about their transition to and navigation through college during an interactive panel.

During their visit, the students had meaningful experiences that prompted deep thought, spontaneous laughter, cultural engagement, and personal reflection.

“I’m tremendously grateful to have shared my experiences with the Black and Latinx youth from the Project Best program,” said Joshua Cantong, APU student panelist and member of BSA. “I was honored to be a part of this process and give back to my respective communities.” The students left campus inspired, motivated, and challenged to keep forging ahead in pursuing their academic interests and personal dreams.

"It was exciting to talk to students about their future academic and career ambitions during the Project Best event,” said Michelle Cox, Ph.D., professor and director of the School Counseling Program in APU's School of Education. “For some students, it was their first opportunity to set foot on a college campus. One student told me she planned to complete her APU application as soon as she got home.”

Keith E. Hall, Ed.D., is the Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer at Azusa Pacific University.