Aug 22, 2008

Umoja: Unity

Collective of educators empower students through culture, unity

By Reginald James

Umoja means “unity” in Swahili. While many are unaware of the words meaning–let alone Swahili–in the California Community Colleges, the word is even more popular.
“Umoja is a grassroots movement,” said Teresa Aldredge, a counselor at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento who is alsoVice-Chair of Program Development of the Umoja Community. Umoja’s mission is “enhancing the cultural and educational experiences of African American and other students.”
Umoja a group of faculty, student support staff and administrators dedicated to the academic success of all students utilizing a curriculum and pedagogy specific to the African Diaspora indigenous to North America.
The Umoja movement began at Umoja I in 2006 at Diablo Valley College. The goal was to improve the success and retention of African American students. Two steering committees were formed; one for Northern and one for Southern California.
Based on the then-current African American student success programs (i.e. Chabot’s Daraja, Santa Monica’s Black Collegians, etc.) a statewide steering committee created a comprehensive draft of a statewide program.
While still in a development stage, the program already has success with phase I, Umoja programs at five campuses in the beginning of 2008.
Umoja III was held at Chabot in 2007 and Umoja IV will be held in San Diego in October.
(This is part one of a three part series focusing on California’s Umoja Community.)

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