ASTEP and Umoja Group PhotoThis year marked the first ever joint End of Semester Celebration with Skyline College’s African American Through Excellence and Persistence (ASTEP) and College of San Mateo’s Umoja Learning Communities.  On Thursday, May 17, 2018, ASTEP and Umoja students and their family members, faculty, administrators and staff members from both campuses came together in the Fireside Dining Hall at Skyline College to celebrate students and graduates in both programs. It was truly an evening of unity and community, and a celebration of African American and African culture.

The evening began with a welcoming ritual led by CSM Ethnic Studies Professor, Frederick Gaines, and was followed by an overview of the 2017-18 program highlights from CSM Umoja Coordinator, Jeramy Wallace and ASTEP Coordinator, Danielle Powell.  The celebration was kicked off by an African Dance, featuring Skyline College ASTEP and International students, Franck Yao, Abiodun Forsythe, Ayanda Miti and Ernest Bediako.  Afterwards, Naledi Mthembu read an original poem that she wrote.  Throughout the evening, there were also inspirational speeches that moved everyone to tears.  Vice President of Instruction, Jennifer Taylor-Mendoza shared an historical overview of the statewide Umoja program and her connection to the CSM and Skyline College programs.  Bay area native, Ameer-Hasaan Walton motivated ASTEP and Umoja students to set goals and hold each other accountable during his keynote speech.  Ameer received his degree in Marketing from Bowie State University and currently works for the Black College Expo. During his undergrad tenure, he co-founded Black Male Agenda which is an African-centered student run organization and mentoring program. He is also the co-founder of Get Far Magazine and he co-hosts the “Live At The Family BBQ” podcast. CSM student, Romell McCalpin-Carter and Skyline College student, Franck Yao gave memorable speeches that highlighted their personal and academic journeys and the support that they’ve received from their respective faculty and colleges.  The night then ended with a celebration of the 2018 graduates as they were honored with certificates and graduation stoles.

Both ASTEP and Umoja are grateful for the support of our college’s administrators, SMCCCD Board of Trustee members, and that of ASTEP and Umoja faculty and staff.  We also thank Roger Marcelo for providing music and sound support during the celebration, and Pac Dining for the great soul food!

Article written by Danielle Powell

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