Black transfer success program Umoja begins classes at SBCC

Courtesy+of+umojacommunity.org
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Black transfer success program Umoja begins classes at SBCC

Courtesy of umojacommunity.org

Courtesy of umojacommunity.org

Courtesy of umojacommunity.org

Courtesy of umojacommunity.org

Bailey Mann, Staff Writer

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Students in City College’s new Umoja program, a transfer success program geared towards African-American and other black students, say they have acquired a new passion for learning since enrolling.

“Sometimes it feels like a black studies class instead of an English class, in a good way In high school these topics weren’t touched on,” student Lawrence Omolo said about his experience in the Umoja classroom.

“Listening to my classmates is powerful because of the level of comfortability in the classroom.”

The Umoja program was introduced into the college’s course catalogue this Fall 2018 semester, but it was officially adopted by the college earlier this year. Umoja is a nation-wide program with a goal to enhance cultural and educational experiences of black students and underrepresented groups.

The program is currently under the leadership of Luis Giraldo, the campus director of equity, diversity, and cultural competency. He said that the program is in its baby stages and still needs work, but the funding is there and will allow the program to continue to grow and flourish.

Giraldo said the equity department has committed to providing $50,000 a year towards Umoja in addition to hiring a part-time hourly aid position as well as a full-time program coordinator position, giving the program roughly $175,000 per year.

Interviews for the program coordinator are expected to take place by the end of September so that the newly-hired coordinator will be able help assist in the ribbon cutting for the dedicated Umoja space by the end of October.

The part-time aid position is going to be filed by Simone Ruskamp, a UCSB graduate who heard about the opportunity through an off-campus mentorship program called Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals.

“It’s one of my dreams to continue connecting with my mentees through Umoja,” Ruskamp said. “One of the resources Umoja offers are mentorships both on and off campus.”

Umoja is set up similarly to the Express to Success program in the way that it combines core English and math classes so that students are with the same peers and the same instructor for more tailored attention in the classroom and are on a path to get their general education requirements done quickly.

The Umoja-dedicated section of combined English 110 and 111 is taught by instructor Bonny Bryan. Her class has 24 seats available and 20 of them are occupied by Umoja students.

“While this is the first class dedicated to the program, a range of classes are planned for future semesters,” Bryan said. “The class is focused on texts by black authors, poets, and historians.”

Bryan also said that the class will be taking advantage of campus-wide events that correlate with topics and themes that are being touched on in class such as race and racism.

Omolo is a student in Bryan’s class. He said the atmosphere and curriculum in the class is unorthodox and forward-thinking, and that he enjoys the controversial writings for their different perspectives of racial inequality on a global and domestic platform.

“I wish that Umoja was opened to more students,” Omolo said. “If Umoja was a core curriculum it would open up eyes to more happening in the world and help with student success on a larger platform”.