Dr. Terry Sivers strengthens the Black Student Experience

February 23, 2024 | San Diego Community College District

Dr. Terry Sivers, Counselor and Coordinator of the Black Student Success Program (BSSP) at San Diego College of Continuing Education is leading the way to bring the voices of Black students front and center. The BSSP is one of the only specialized programs in the county offered by a college to increase retention and success for Black and African American adult students.

Dr. Terry Siver is smiling and wearing glasses and a blue and white flannel shirt
Dr. Terry Siver, Counselor and Coordinator of the Black Student Success Program at San Diego College of Continuing Education.

“Furthering the Civil Rights movement to me means to do everything in my power to do what is right,” said Sivers, who was raised by a single Black father. “My mission is to support others who face significant barriers to reach their goals, dreams, and beyond.”

As the BSSP Counselor and Coordinator, Sivers meets with Black and African American students one on one to make an academic plan and additionally supports them with basic needs, resources and advocacy. The BSSP was established in fall 2022 at the College of Continuing Education’s Educational Cultural Complex and is now housed at the college’s Mid-City Campus in City Heights.

Since becoming full-time in fall 2023, Sivers is expanding the BSSP. For the first-time, the affinity group will join forces with California Community Colleges during Black Student Success Week from April 22 through April 26, 2024. The week of advocacy will focus on successful approaches to ensure Black and African American students succeed in school and in the workforce.

Sivers will support the opening of the College of Continuing Education’s inaugural, Multicultural Center at the Mid-City Campus later this spring. The center will give students from diverse backgrounds and cultures the opportunity to build community and connections on campus with one another.

Furthermore, in collaboration with SDCCE President Dr. Tina King, Vice President of Student Services Dr. Shakerra Carter, Dean of Counseling and Student Services Roberta Krauss, and Associate Dean of Student Support Programs Dr. Franklin Garrett, Sivers will bring the African American Male Education Network Development (A²MEND) Student Charter to the College of Continuing Education. A²MEND fosters Black and African American male success in community colleges, by way of mentorship from leaders like Sivers and Dr. Garrett, who utilizes their scholarly and professional expertise to mentor students.

“SDCCE faces unique challenges, what our adult learners need is way different from what first-time, two-year community college students need,” said Sivers. “We must support our students in real ways with action and foster a culture that cares.”

Down the road, as the A²MEND  program builds at the College of Continuing Education, Sivers looks forward to offering a lived experience to students he had. Each year A²MEND mentees are selected for a cultural excursion trip to Africa — bringing students and leaders alike back to their origins and ancestry. Sivers traveled to Haiti in 2017, where he witnessed the long-standing impact following the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake.

“Haiti is a pillar of Black studies and Black culture. They were the first independent Black nation shining a light on possible freedom,” shared Sivers. “Haiti maintains its African roots, spirituality, and the history of its culture and people. It was a transformational experience for me, I went with scholars from across the country. It’s important that our students are exposed to their ancestry too.”

Empowered by his travels, Sivers is using his trip to Haiti to amplify the voices of the Black student experience back at the campus. This Black History Month, Sivers will host, The Story of Haiti: Revolution/Resistance, Resilience and Retribution, on February 26th at Mid-City. Dr. Adisa Alkebulan, Chair of the San Diego State University Africana Studies department will lecture on the intricate history of Haiti, unraveling the complex circumstances that have fueled recent waves of immigration to the United States and will provide insight, knowledge, and skills to support Haitian student populations.

As Haiti remains one of the poorest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, more families are coming to the United States seeking the College of Continuing Education as refuge. In addition to the Black Student Success Program, the College of Continuing Education offers tuition-free English as a second language (ESL), Citizenship and High School Diploma/Equivalency courses, and career education certificates.

“Serving adult populations is unique, I learned how to adjust to support students in the best way I can,” said Sivers. “Serving them has been wonderful. There are frustrations for unavailable resources, but overall I can tell my students feel a sense of purpose. It’s an honor to be a part of their journey. They come from so many backgrounds and face complex adversities.”

Sivers added, “we are helping Black immigrants perpetually Haitian, African, South American populations assimilate into the United States and into the American education system. We are actively eliminating barriers that impede their success. When a student leaves an appointment with me, they are enrolled in a class as a means to move forward.”

The College of Continuing Education is home to the most diverse populations in California, serving about 20,000 students annually, where more than half of the population identifies as immigrant-based and nearly 30% report having never attended college. Students with Black and African American roots make up 7% of the institution’s population.

Sivers holds a bachelor’s degree in Black studies from San Diego State University, a master’s degree in counseling from SDSU, a master’s degree in cultural studies from Claremont Graduate University, and a doctoral degree in education from Claremont Graduate University.  Prior to his arrival at the College of Continuing Education, Sivers worked at Grossmont College.

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