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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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Raices tree planting ceremony celebrates new roots at SBCC

Bethany Davenport
From left, Sergio Lagunas, Raices program coordinator, Rosy Vidal-Ayres Raices academic counselor and, Dr. Melissa Menendez Raices project director of Title V HSI Grant, and professor of English pose next to the newly planted tree and plaque on Tuesday, Sept.12 in Santa Barbara, Calif. The event commemorates the kickstart of the program at City College.

“Raices: First Year and Beyond” commenced its first event of the year on Sept. 12 with a symbolic tree planting ceremony on campus signifying the launch of the new program.

Four guest speakers including English Professor Annette Cordero, Superintendent-President Erika Endrijones, Assistant Superintendent Maria Vilagomez, Assistant Superintendent Paloma Arnold, and Program Coordinator Sergio Lagunas spoke at the ceremony, alongside Spanish and sign language translators. All speakers discussed the relevance and importance of the event, and contributed to the program’s first official year on campus after its establishment last November.

“The primary reason for this event was to honor the beginning of our program,” Lagunas said. “This all began because we brainstormed how to launch this program in a very symbolic way.”

The City College community came together on Tuesday, Sept. 12 to support the start of the Raices program. The Raices program kickstarted their first semester of offering support and empowerment to Latina students by planting a tree onfront of the West Campus Center. (Bethany Davenport)

The ceremony began with City College alum and current English professor Annette Cordero representing the Chumash people by symbolically smudging the audience and explaining the historical significance of City College land. Smudging is a common indigenous practice in which a combination of plant leaves and stems are burned in order to clear a space of negative energy. Where students now walk from class to class, the Chumash tribe used to trade for tobacco and sugar by ships rolling in off the Santa Barbara coast.

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“[We wanted to launch the program] in a way that not only shows our ancestral wisdom and past, but also how we are hopeful for the future of the program and the future of our land,” Lagunas said.

After smudging the audience, Cordero presented a passionate, yet light-hearted speech explaining the significance of the land on which the tree was planted.

Sergio Lagunas, Raices
program coordinator at City College, reads plaque donated for the Raices program. The tree planting ceremony commenced the Raices program on Tuesday, Sept. 12 in front of the West Campus Center. (Bethany Davenport)

“My people have been here for over 15,000 years,” Cordero said. “I think that counts as long.”

In the advertising for the event, there were notably no specific details regarding who the speakers were going to be or what the ceremony entailed other than a tree planting. Lagunas explained that this was an intentional, strategic detail that was key to enhancing the ceremonial experience.

“You can only plan so much,” Lagunas said. “One of the reasons why we didn’t advertise anything in the details is because we just wanted people to be present and in the ceremonial space.”

Corderos’s speech was followed by an interactive Chumash prayer the audience was encouraged to participate in which included thanking the East, West, North, South, Sky, and Ground as a sign of gratitude towards the land. She concluded the speech and prayer with a ceremonial Chumash song sung by Cordero herself as the tree was lowered into the ground.

As dirt began to be shoveled on top at the end of the ceremony, Lagunas welcomed the audience to add dirt to the pile so that everyone could be a part of the beginning of the new program. 

“I thought the ceremony was really beautiful,” student Sarah Baldwin said. “It was nice to hear from a lot of upper faculty members and see how they feel about the program and the significance of it. I think that it really makes an impact.”

The plaque donated by Santa Barbara Beautiful shines bright to commemorate the start of the Raices programs first semester at City College. The ceremony was held in front of the West Campus Center building on Tuesday Sept. 12. (Bethany Davenport)

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