By: Manny Otiko, IVN
San Bernardino, CA — More than 600 African American students celebrated the transition from childhood into adulthood Sunday as part of the Inland Empire High School Black Graduation Recognition Ceremony.
More than $27,000 in scholarships were handed out at the event. There were also thousands of dollars available for students who attend California State University, San Bernardino. The scholarships are funded by local donors.
The event attracted students from San Bernardino and Riverside counties and as far as Orange County and San Diego.
The event, which is the brainchild of Keynasia and Jonathan Buffong, has been in existence since 2011. But this is the first event back on Cal State San Bernardino’s campus since COVID.
The Buffongs said they created the event to celebrate and honor African American high school graduates and to motivate them to continue their education. The event also handed out scholarships and connected students with community resources.
Keynasia Buffong said that one of the reasons why they created the event was to celebrate high school graduation rates in the Black community. A former high school counselor, Keynasia noticed that Black students have some of the lowest graduation rates. She is currently a career counselor at San Bernardino Valley College.
Jonathan Buffong, an educational consultant for San Bernardino County, said the event also honors students who graduate but don’t have the best grade point average. He said students are also honored for graduating and giving back to their community.
Keynasia said that it was important to honor not just the great academic performers and great athletes. She said the majority of students fall in the middle and sometimes they get overlooked.
“These students don’t get a lot of attention,” she said. “They fall between the cracks.”
Having celebrated thousands of Black high school graduates, the Buffongs have their choice pieces of advice for young people.
Jonathan advises new graduates to have a clear view of where they want to go, and surround themselves with positive role models who they can learn from.
“My advice is to be clear about your values and what you want to do in life,” he said. He also advised grads to shadow successful people.
Keynasia has different advice for new graduates. She urges them to try new experiences and learn from them.
“Stay open to as many opportunities as possible,” she said. “If there are different opportunities, try them and it may lead to something you like. Embrace different opportunities.”