Umoja returns to campus

Aaron Hudson, Contributing writer

Annual data proves that African American students at DVC have lower rates of academic achievement when compared to other demographics.

According to, DVC serves more than 22,000 students of all ages with only 464 staff members placed there to instruct.

According to the 2009 DVC Fact Book, in 2008 there was about an 18 percent difference in success rates between black and white students.

Umoja, the district’s effort to address the achievement gap, is a pilot classroom program where students learn one or two subjects as a group, while also gaining advice through mentoring services, counseling and other benefits the program offers on campus.

“The benefit of the program is that you don’t have to deal with the struggle of trying to get into a Math and English class being that they are so impacted,” says LMC student Erik Brown.

The Umoja Community Movement began at the Umoja I Conference, which took place at DVC in October 2006.

Another program with objectives similar to Umoja that was implemented at DVC was the Ujima program. This temporary two-year program was funded by the Foundation for College Success and Diane Scott Summers during a time of harsh budget cuts. However, it was discontinued after Spring 2010.

Speaking to President Garcia on Monday about the reason the Ujima program didn’t continue, he stated that he wasn’t quite sure if it was enrollment, funding, leadership or lack of support that caused the program to discontinue. President Garcia also explained that the funding from the Umoja program was being taken from Ujima to advance the program through the first phase of getting on campus.

“The College Success Inquiry Project (CSI) has been very supportive,” said Dr.Matthew Powell, a co-leader of the CSI and an African American studies professor. “Our first phase starts at the Summer Learning (SLI), a week-long intensive professional development experience where colleges create and fine tune their programs which DVC will be attending this summer.”

Without a doubt, professional development will play a key role in effectively using the program to address the achievement gap. Staff Development Coordinator and Flex Activity Program member Lisa Orta developed the Whistling Vivaldi Project at DVC to contribute presentations and discussions in an effort to help narrow the gap. “I think there are a lot of points of contact that students have at the college, that could be more supportive to narrowing the achievement gap,” said Orta.

The second phase of getting the program on campus may have already begun, according to Goen-Salter at an Umoja development workshop held at DVC on April 26.

In fact, CSI presented a five-semester implementation plan for the program that introduces the program in January 2012 and keeps it going through Spring 2014, before getting the go ahead on funding from President Garcia himself.