Umoja fundraiser event reigns in $20,191 for SJCC students

Virtual Fundraiser gives insight of its impact on students while raising funds to continue the program


Lidia Rocha

The Zoom meeting was held by Vice President Roland Montemayor, Secretary of Student Affairs Claudia Amador, Rowena M. Tomaneng, Umoja coordinators Meiko Daire and Dedrick Griffin.

The Umoja Program held a virtual fundraiser on Feb. 26 with the initial goal of $20,000 for students; by the end of the fundraiser, they surpassed that and instead raised $20,191.

“‘It takes a village to have that child thrive’ as Chancellor Byron Breland talked about. That’s really what the Umoja program is about, with the coordination of Meiko and Dedrick they are building such an incredible and powerful program that celebrates the talent and the brilliance of African American students,” said SJCC President Rowena Tomaneng.

Vice President Roland Montemayor, Secretary of Student Affairs Claudia Amador, Tomaneng, Umoja coordinators Meiko Daire and Dedrick Griffin are the moving parts of the program and fundraiser.

Former students and current students who are part of the Umoja program were given the opportunity to speak about their experiences.

Kayla Jones, an SJCC alumni spoke of her experience as being one of the first few to be a part of the transfer agreement between Clark University (HBU) and SJCC. Jones said that the Umoja program launched her academic career and she is pursuing medical school.

“It gives us Black students a chance to make friends that look like us since we only make up 6% of the SJCC community,” SJCC student Tiffany Drew said. “Since joining the Umoja program, Umoja now means family that has your best interest at heart that will do anything to see you succeed.”

Drew said the Umoja program has opened many doors such as experiencing the HBCU community, scholarships and networking opportunities.

“Everything is much appreciated and will never be forgotten,” said Drew, who will transfer to San Jose State University next semester.

Jammar Gavari is a former student who also gave some of his time to speak about the impact the program had in his academic career.

“When I came over to San Jose City (College), I didn’t know about the campus or where to go or if there was even a program for students that looked like me,” Gavari said. “Through the year I got involved in student government … as far as this program goes, it helped out a lot so I was really appreciative to have met counselor Pamela Turner, counselor Meiko Daire and english professor Dedrick Griffin.”

Cara Parker, an SJCC student and Umoja leader, spoke about the program’s influence in her academic career.

“This whole community and village that we have, it kept us accountable … they’re going check on you not just at the beginning, not the middle, the end.That’s beneficial and keeps us tip top,” Parker said.“ That lets us know if we’re going to drop something, but they’re going to pick you back up and that is going to help us as a community.”

Parker also gave an anecdote of how Daire had helped her with a graduation petition and not only did Darie do this efficiently and immediately, but with moral support as well.

Griffin spoke on the highlights of the program including cultural workshops, field trips, and events. These perks are still offered, however it’s now over zoom because of COVID.

The three classes that are marketed to Umoja students are English 1A, statistics, guidance course and African American culture.

The program offers connections to mentors as well as a lending library, leadership opportunities internships or help with transferring. This is viable as Umoja offers more than 30 transfer agreements with historical Black colleges.

“Our population is continually sort of shrinking, so the number is getting smaller and smaller it seems that each year. I think for the African-Americans who do get here … it’s really important to find a place where you fit in,” said Griffin who’s been an Umoja coordinator for three years, “a place where you know there’s people who have similar experiences to you, maybe look a little like you, that you feel comfortable being able to talk and just exist.”

Some other highlights of the work done by the Umoja program was its innovative outreach. It had done a media campaign with iHeart Radio for six weeks in which 83 students who were interested in Umoja took part. It also collaborated with the Black Employee Association, where five starter scholarships have been already granted. Four of them have started classes at SJCC.

Diversity and Talent Manager Portia Neil and Traffic and Compliance Manager Carita Marrow were given the leadership award for their work partnering Adobe with SJCC.

“The faculty, the professionals, the community leaders. Without all of those folks we wouldn’t be able to do it, but at the heart are the student” said Montemayor “The way they are changing the world. We love all our students. We really need you, many of these things couldn’t happen without support. Thank you all very much.”