Charles “CC” Carter launched the Cross Cultural Leadership Center at Chico State last year to further the kinds of relationships that he believes are sometimes difficult in America.
By T.J. Holmes
Charles “CC” Carter knows the value of focus and determination.
Carter, an alumnus of Chico State, runs the cross-cultural and leadership programs for the Student Activities Office. Carter oversaw the opening of the Cross Cultural Leadership Center (CCLC) in late 2007, a program that has taken off and become a bridge in the Chico State community, bringing together diverse groups.
“That’s the key to success in America,” Carter said. “An inclusive society will form a more successful nation.”
An inclusive society, Carter said, is one where people are not alienated or disrespected because of their race, ethnicity or other such differences.
Carter, 50, is an athletic man with short, curly black hair. He leans back in his chair this spring day, his hands folded on his lap, his eyes locked on the interviewer, listening to every word. He exudes a passion for accomplishment and inspires through his belief in possibilities.
Carter says young men and women can accomplish challenging tasks — as long as someone gives them the opportunity to achieve. “If you give people the opportunity to do something great, who knows what will happen?” Carter said.
He learned to be determined by overcoming hardships he faced as a child.
Carter was born in San Francisco and lived in the projects of the Fillmore District that is part of the Western Addition. His father left home when he was a toddler and his mother died when he was 13. He then was shuffled around to foster homes before graduating high school in Seaside, Calif.
Carter believes his tough childhood forced him into becoming a man early and dealing with the world. He realized that he needed to be serious and stay focused to be the role model his two younger sisters needed.
Carter was the son of an African-American father and Japanese mother, and as a mixed-race child had trouble finding acceptance by groups that represented to him the cultures of his family. His mother could not speak but a couple words of English until she died.
Carter began attending Chico State at the age of 18. From 1975 to 1980, Carter played football after being given the chance to make the Wildcats team as a walk-on. “I loved it,” Carter said. “It was the best time of my life.”
In 1981, Carter was hired to develop a multicultural program at Chico State. He taught himself through trial and error to get people to open up and realize they could interact with people different than themselves. This is where he found his true passion – in helping people find a foundation for personal life, leading to success.
“It’s a lot of work to challenge people’s value structure and get them out of their safe zone,” Carter said.
Carter soon realized more was needed to succeed in building relationships between students of different cultures, races and ethnicities. “This is where the Center comes in,” he said, “to create a bridge to learn how to communicate respectfully with other races.”
The CCLC staff hopes the center will bring students together to create programs without its help, and follow through with those programs in the greater community. The student-centered programs that have been created thus far include Diversity Summit, Spirit of a Woman Conference, Kwanzaa Community Celebration, and the LEAD STRONG Junior High and High School Leadership conferences.
The CCLC received the Promising Newcomer Award this spring at the 3rd Annual Conversations on Diversity Achievement. The award is presented to an individual or group whose ideas and energy encourage campus diversity work and aid new approaches to old problems.
“It’s remarkable to think what we accomplished since October,” said Erica Flores, a recent Chico State graduate who works alongside Carter as the CCLC leadership program coordinator. “It’s only the tip of the iceberg for what is yet to come.”
The CCLC works closely with Associated Students, serving over 200 student organizations. In spring semester, CCLC had nine interns working with Carter and Flores.
Carter is also an adviser to Men of Honor, an African-American community-based group focused on bringing elders and young men together to learn from each other. The group encourages mentoring of young men in the Chico community.
Carter and his wife Bertha have taught their three sons, Marcus, 18, Anthony, 17, and Jeremy, 16, the value of cross-cultural relationships.
Michelle Jeskey, 19, is a volunteer leadership intern among those inspired by Carter’s enthusiasm. “He is the most influential person I have met in Chico,” Jeskey said. “He puts a lot of faith in people and what they are capable of doing.”
Carter believes that all people often need is that one chance. “Students give me my energy,” Carter said. “They ignite my fire. They are the future.”