Black Student Union (BSU) strives to create an environment where students of African descent can come and feel welcome as well as connect while learning about their history.
Their motto is “Know your history, know your greatness,” and with the hiring of the new advisor Laura Culbertson, that message is spreading. She currently holds an administrative work-study position in the TRiO Student Services department on campus but wanted to do more.
When applying to be the BSU director, Culbertson felt that it was “important for BSU to have a program status vs. club status” by improving and reiterating the club’s goals and mission. She wants BSU to be “dedicated to the theme of ‘Unity in Heritage,’ and the principles of self-determination, self awareness, and unity.” She wants to educate students of African descent about their past and incorporate it into all the things they can do in the present and future by “promoting community service and stressing academic excellence.”
Not only does Culbertson want to make an impact in BSU, she wants to further the relationship between them and other student services. She is working towards unifying the programs so they can “work together and support each other.”
Shelton Barnes, current member of BSU, is excited about the upcoming year himself. Although BSU has ups and downs as far as the number of members, this year they are 30 strong and are bound to do some incredible things.
According to Barnes, the program was founded in 1967 by Al Ferdinand and “one of the reasons he created the program is because he thought that blacks were taught to feel inferior.” But that is not the case anymore.
One of the club’s goals is to “plan, promote, and sponsor campus and neighborhood activities that support our mission,” said Barnes, which they did Feb. 8 by going to Crossroads Community Center. They participated in events and sat with middle school kids to discuss how to set goals and take the right steps towards achieving those goals.
Some accomplishments they have had so far is raising donations to send money to Haiti after the major earthquake, as well as “participating [in] the Western Region Conference for Black American Affairs, where we learned of national issues pertaining to black students across the nation,” said Barnes.
BSU doesn’t limit their efforts to the BC campus; they are also about to do some legislative work with other high school BSUs in Olympia to lobby on behalf of student rights.
With all the things BSU is doing, Barnes is forward to the club “becoming a family.”
As far as the new addition to the program, Barnes expresses how he thinks Culbertson will be a “great leader.” “I think that she is focused, really cares about the students, and has a genuine desire and want to take care of the student at BSU,” said Barnes.
Culbertson has had multiple leadership experience prior to this program. Along with working with Kelly Services and Bechtel National Incorporated, she owned and mandated her own fashion boutique called Bloomingdeals, where she developed business skills.
Originally from Yakima, Washington, Culbertson actually helped form her high school BSU in 1968. Her family later moved and she graduated from Amory High School in Mississippi and went on to continue her education at Mississippi State Beauty College where she became a licensed cosmetologist. She furthered her education at the Atlanta Urban League Office Systems Training Center where she was class president in 1993 and specialized in business accounting. After going to Messick Vocational Technical Center, moving to Kent, WA to work at Boeing, going to California to attend Pierce College and Antelope Valley Community College, Culbertson moved back to Washington to attend Bellevue College and has been here since.
Even just sitting in her presence at BSU meetings, it is clear that Culbertson demands attention and knows what she is talking about.
She has had many accomplishments, from the Taking Pride Award to being appointed and commissioned Notary Public of the State of California.
Not only does Culbertson take education seriously within school hours, she also enjoys learning outside the campus. She is an enthusiastic historian and is actually displayed on the Yakima Valley Museum: The Talking Wall for her story about her ancestors which she traced all the way back to 1868.
Throughout her life Culbertson has developed the necessary skills, qualifications, and attributes to take the college’s Black Student Union to where it needs to be. She is loyal, hardworking, and dedicated to make BSU widely known and accepted as a program where history meets education.
BSU meetings are every Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Student Services, room C-202.