UMOJA helps students find dream career

Denny Cristales, Freelancer

“Unity.”

In Kiswahili, it translates to “umoja.” For Cerritos College, however, it translates to student success, according to Sheila Hill, a student services professional.

UMOJA is a student success program designed to help students figure out what they are good at and use that knowledge in order to become better students.

The program also provides a heavy emphasis on communication and togetherness, hence the counseling program’s translation from the word “unity.”

Unity is exactly what the counselors and faculty involved in UMOJA are looking to achieve amongst students at Cerritos College.

Hill said, “We’re there to support [students] on helping them know what they’re good at, defining and working on that, things that they need to work on and helping them in that endeavor.”

This is UMOJA’s “pilot year”, it is the first academic year that it is active on campus.

The program now offers more in-depth counseling services, career services, field trips to schools and other resources in order to promote the idea of getting to know what’s out there.

Last Wednesday, UMOJA had one of its counseling meetings at the Teleconference Center in order to promote that very premise.

Among the guest speakers was Dawn Person, a California State University, Fullerton professor who is invested in UMOJA’s purpose of unity.

The idea is for students to venture out and learn about different things, which in turn increases their dynamic and allows for a productive approach in learning more about their own selves, according to Person.

“The curriculum is designed so that the students are really immersed in a culturally relevant experience,” she said.

Devaeghn Lewis, an undecided major, was at last Wednesday’s meeting and found that UMOJA’s premise is one that effectively utilizes a student’s interests.

“We’re [students] that have places in this world, it’s their jobs as counselors to help us find it,” he said. “And to not just look at our weaknesses, but to base it off of our strengths, abilities that we already have and to hone in on those abilities.”

UMOJA has attained resources in order to promote its own personal growth, but, seeing as it is in its pilot year, Hill naturally wants it to expand further.

“Next year, we anticipate having a full new group of students entering the program. And as soon as we have that and continue to pilot it, we’ll continue to go on with this same premise,” she added.

The program offers English counseling courses, another general-ed course that is available for transfer to a CSU or a UC and, eventually, open a math class.

UMOJA also tackles cultural issues, as briefly insinuated by Person, as one of the topics brought up last Wednesday was that of an “achievement gap.”

“There’s an achievement gap with African Americans and other groups of students who aren’t performing at the same level as white student counterparts,” Person said. “The idea is to close that gap and to get that achievement gap and turn it into an opportunity gap.”

That opportunity gap presents itself through the principles and resources UMOJA offers, according to both Hill and Person.