iRISE Opens Doors for UCI’s Prospective Black Student

This year, the Inspiring & Reassuring Individual Student Excellence event, otherwise known as iRISE, occurred on April 20 and 21. The event allows newly admitted, prospective UCI students and parents from a variety of high schools got to experience all that UCI’s Black Student Union had to offer, which included: a tour of the campus and dorms, workshops that educated students on the “college experience” and an overall opportunity to connect with the black community at UCI.

The day started off with a tour and finished with a trip to Dave and Busters at the Irvine Spectrum Center. Dinner included performances by the West African Dance Team, known as WADG, several singers, and steps and chants from  Black Greek Letter Organizations including Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta and Omega Psi Phi.

For many young incoming freshmen, such as Helen Kassahun from Pioneer High School in San Jose, the experience was unique from other colleges. She explained that she was “enjoying it a lot,” and the social interactions were “really fun.” Another incoming freshman, Kalkidan Agdie from Branham High School in San Jose, admitted her distress in deciding which school she was going to attend in the fall, having narrowed it down to UCI or UC San Diego.

“I’m really liking it,” said Agdie. “It’s making my decision a lot harder.”

Most of the volunteers were alumni of iRISE, having attended this event more than once over the course of their years here at UCI. What keeps fifth-year Bryant Parker coming back is watching the attendees enjoy their event.

“This is my third year being lead for volunteer chair,” said Parker. “The thing that I enjoy most about the event is watching the students, well now the parents as well, just watching them smile and enjoy their time. This is a very big event, and it takes a lot of work, so to see that our work paid off, and see that they’re enjoying and getting the information needed, is the best part of this for me.”

Third-year Kamerahn Laititi, volunteer and mentor, emphasized that his favorite part is the “mentorship” aspect of the program.

“My favorite part is actually just the mentorship part,” he said. “Definitely being able to guide high school students, and educate them about what the guidelines about college and how to go about navigating a university. And just more black students to the campus overall is just a good thing.”

Many take away their own unique experience from iRISE, but third-year volunteer Chynah Thomas said that the overall purpose of the event is to find a way to “help diversify the school in terms attempting to raise the number of Black and African-American students who attend UCI.”

She explained, “There aren’t that many of us here, so the Black community of current UCI students are really passionate about bringing that number up. It’s also about further encouraging Black and African American students to pursue higher education.”