Umoja brings students together to promote success.


Erick Mujica

Alaina Limbrick, Kiana Butler, Heidi Goen-Salter, Essence Suggs, and anonymous from Umoja learning community, hanging out in the PUMA center

Erick Mujica and Emily Fishbaugh

Umoja (meaning Unity in Kiswalhili), a Diablo Valley College learning community of educators and learners committed to the academic success, personal growth, and self-actualization of African-American and other students aimed to enhance their cultural and educational experiences. On their fourth cohort since starting up in Spring 2013. This state-wide learning community was brought to DVC with help from Heidi Goen-Salte who is a Co-Coordinator for Umoja.

Since Umoja began at DVC, over 100 students have participated, and over 40 faculty and staff members have become involved. Each cohort lasts the length of a school year and has approximately 35 students. Each group of students has two core classes together, and the option of having multiple classes together to build a safe learning environment with students of the same demographics.

Each Umoja student is paired with a mentor early in the fall semester; each mentor supports their student throughout the school year with emotional help, by pushing them to finish assignments and keeping them on track to graduate and/or transfer. By keeping these these students together in classes, the students help teach each other and they, as one, can learn more about culturally relevant materials.

Umoja meets in the “PUMA center” across from the Learning Community on the Pleasant Hill DVC campus, and leaves their doors open for all previous members to come back for a study space to meet with their mentors, and to just have a safe space. The learning community often works closely with the Pan African Union, a club on campus that teaches students about African history and offers support to help students accomplish their goals.

Recently, Umoja has opened up a group called “Friends of Umoja,” in which non-Umoja students can now be paired up with mentors, and students can feel the same support, and family-like atmosphere, without being selected for the actual learning community.

Another offering of the learning community is Umoja movie nights. Some movie nights include Pan African Union, Mesa, and Puente, so their doors are open to all. Umoja wants to support their individual students, as well as support the college itself.

We recently interviewed a few students from past cohorts, as well as Heidi Goen-Salter, who begin our branch of Umoja here at DVC. A student from Cohort 2, Kiana Butler (3rd year, Psych Major), shared “Umoja has been my support system. This group has been a great fit for me, and I am still in touch with my mentor, and many people from my cohort. It’s been a good directional guide.”

Another student, Alaina Limbrick (Cohort 3, Sophomore, Broadcast Communications Major), told us that “Umoja has been a great experience for me. I can’t get away with skipping assignments in class, or not showing up to classes, and my mentor is great, and we are still in touch! The connections, personal experiences, and movie nights have really helped create community.”

Finally we spoke to Essence Suggs (Freshman, Business major), another Cohort 3 student said “this community has been great for my self esteem. I really came into myself. I didn’t realize I was in pain until I came here. Umoja really opens your mind, and helps you out when searching for grants and scholarships.