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Pinkard Youth Institute Hosts Event to Support Black College Tours

Former Oxnard Councilmember Bedford Pinkard and Former Oxnard Mayor Pro-Tem Irene Pinkard

It was almost 25 years ago that Bedford and Irene Pinkard decided to invite Oxnard students to Prairie View A & M University to watch a cousin graduate from the animal husbandry program. The trip was the inspiration for the Black College Tours, which turns 25 years old this year.

The six students who attended that first tour will be a part of the “A Heart for Youth” event sponsored by Pinkard Youth Institute, celebrating 25 years of the Black College tours. The event will raise funds to partially fund the college tours, as well as a leadership academy at a local four-year institution, and an internship program offering mentors and employment experience to students.

The public is invited to attend this special event to be held on Sunday, February 16, 2014, at the Residence Inn by Marriott, 2101 Vineyard Avenue in Oxnard from 3 to 6 p.m. A Sunday Supper will be served and entertainment will be provided by one of the past tour participants, Cheryl Gilbreath, whose professional name is Geneva Renee’. Gilbreath is a pharmacist and Howard University graduate. She is also a professional singer and received honorable mention for her new CD, Beautiful Wonder, from the Grammys.

“After the first trip, the students were so excited,” said Dr. Pinkard. “We knew we held a project that had to be expanded and continued. The program, which began with a visit to one college over a weekend, now includes visits to three or more colleges and universities and has now developed into a unique educational program.” The group, including one parent, six students and the Pinkards, flew to Houston, Texas. All meals for the weekend were provided by Mrs. Daisy Cotton, and the Dean of Students at the university arranged an orientation for the students after the graduation.

When the group returned, they explained how the experience had changed the way they viewed college and their educational options. “You did not see that many Black students in college or anywhere in Ventura County,” said Courtney Upchurch, now a human resources specialist. “It prompted me to attend one of the colleges we toured 25 years ago. Attending an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) is an experience you will never forget, and seeing all the black professionals on campus and in the classroom was the motivation I needed to inspire me to reach my goals.”

The cousin who graduated 25 years ago, Dr. Douglas Cotton, is now working for the City of Los Angeles. He has two children and often speaks to students about the advantages of attending an HBCU. “An HBCU is open to all students; it doesn’t matter what nationality you are,” he explains, “Everyone is welcome to attend an HBCU.”

For tickets or additional information, please call (805) 988-2426. Tickets are $50 in advance and $60 at the door on the day of the event. Come and meet participants from over the past 25 years, who will be on hand to meet and greet the 2014 participants scheduled to attend the April 12-19, 2014, tour to Texas and Louisiana.

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