Hope, help for scholars
By Desmond Washington and Izzy Anderson - Staff Reporters
For students, such as Martrellis Autry, beginning the journey through college was not easy.
Before joining the Umoja program, Autry said that college seemed overwhelming.
"I'm a first-generation student, so this wasn't my typical environment," Autry said.
But through professors and students in Umoja, he found a support system that has encouraged growth, and sees him as an important individual.
"In [Umoja], we try to carry ourselves as black scholars," Autry said.
"They demand greatness from all the students," he said.
"Umoja strives to promote the identity development of black students, as well as improve and raise the retention rate of students of color receiving higher education degrees," said Umoja Program Assistant Shijuan Haynes.
Umoja is "a Kis-Swahili word that means community," said Haynes.
The program also "allows us to recognize and begin to heal generational traumas dealt to us through systematic oppression," said Haley Cummins, Highline alumnus and previous Umoja ambassador. The Umoja Black Scholars program began in California. There are now 54 colleges in California that have their own
Umoja programs. The program is in its fifth
year at Highline, and "the Umoja community in Washington has been recognized as the first official chapter outside of California," said Cummins.
Besides focusing on inclusion and learning about students' history, Umoja also aims to help students handle full-time classes and graduate with their Associates of Arts degree.
"Umoja also focuses on working with students to finish their first year with 45 credits as opposed to 15 credits, which is what we typically see from our African American students among finishing their first year," Cummins said.
"In [the] first year, [Umoja strives] to prepare students so that they can branch off into their desired degree pathways with higher levels of college readiness," said Cummins.
Another unique thing about the program is the perspective the lessons are taught in.
"Lessons [are taught] through an Afro-Centric lens, and this goes hand in hand with building our identity development," Cummins said. "With that I mean the reason students are so successful in the program, is because the information is relevant, and people can identify themselves within the information that is being taught."
Umoja scholars can expect to be disciplined in their education, become involved in their communities, and help out others in the program.
"Students are expected to be scholars, [and] actively engaged in their own education. They also need to participate in extra-curricular activities so that they can be active community members. ... Once they finish the core Umoja classes, they become mentors to future Umoja students," said Woody Moses, a professor and mentor in the program.
Although in its fifth year, funding for the program has been difficult for a number or reasons.
"The biggest challenge that I recognize as an obstacle is financial assistance for underrepresented minorities. Our community members are oftentimes first-generation students in their nuclear family unit," Haynes said. "This means that they are usually the first member in their family to ever pursue higher education.
"Our community members often have trouble navigating the systems for enrollment, financial aid assistance, being knowledgeable about deadlines, how much and what kind of information they will need from their parents, and the list goes on," she said.
Several other challenges include stable housing for some students in the program, overall representation on campus, and the fact that there are only so many faculty members giving up their free time to help.
"The faculty and staff that run Umoja have other job responsibilities, and Umoja work is mostly volunteer," Cummins said.
But despite funding issues, Umoja continues to stay afloat and help out Highline students. And because of this program,
involvement in college programs and overall grades have vastly improved for students who are a part of Umoja.
"We have seen math scores improve in our students and have remained connected as a working unit to recommend the Umoja program to friends, family, and complete strangers," said Cummins. The program is also seeking
new members. "[We're] always looking for
new students," said Moses. "Anyone can join the Umoja program. We are an open community, and always look forward to welcoming new
village members," Haynes said. To learn more about the Umoja program, visit umoja.
of authentication. • Use a private network:
Using a private network can protect people's computer/ personal information from being hacked. If a hacker gets some information, the private net- work works to make that information useless to the hacker, Nizami said.
• Never provide social media contents/ accounts with professional information.
• Don't put your birth year on your social media, she said.
"Never give or let anyone else see or get your IP address," Nizami said. "If they get your IP address, they have everything."
The next Science Seminar series will be by Geology Professor Stephaney Puchalski, with her presentation on Tyrannosaurus Rex: Coming Soon to a Park Near You? on Nov. 16 in Building 3, room 102.
As for Autry, he has continued to pursue college with the newfound confidence and encouragement that Umoja helped him find.
"[Umoja] increased my confidence in a good way about myself," Autry said. "It's given me the opportunity to learn more about myself."
"I've felt a lot of support with Umoja," he said. "It helps the helpless to be successful."