CIPHER The CIPHER Hip Hop Learning Community hosted their Virtual Graduation and Scholarship Recognition Celebration last Thursday, May 20.  Despite the numerous challenges they faced this past year, our CIPHER student persisted and leaned into their strengths to complete their educational goals. Inspired by J Cole’s new album titled, “The Offseason”, their hard work often goes unnoticed; however, in the end, they were able to demonstrate that through hard work and their connectedness to the CIPHER Hip Hop Learning Community, they can achieve anything.  Many of our students are transferring to the University of Hawaii-Manoa, University of Oregon, UC Berkeley, SJSU, and SFSU to name a few.


We were blessed by a set of speakers throughout the evening starting with the Vice President of Student Services, Dr. Newin Orante, who reminded us that our presence in educational institutions is a form of protest and a process of reclamation.  To serve as our keynote speaker, we were privileged to have one of our former Skyline College students and Rock The School Bells Scholarship recipient in 2011, Kenny Foster, to share some words about his journey through education and acknowledging the importance of knowing where you came from.  We were also moved by our CIPHER Graduate Speaker, Nhikkie Sagum, who shared her experiences in CIPHER and how she wanted to give back by helping others in her future profession.  Lastly, Professor Sol McCarthy, a recent recipient of the Meyer Teaching Award, blessed the graduating class with inspirational wisdom for them to take with them in their next chapters in life.


The program also included an opportunity for all graduates and transfer students to share about their experiences, their next steps, as well as advice for prospective and current CIPHER students.  This would not be an official CIPHER event without the vibrant energy and music by our students.  One of our CIPHER graduates and transfer students, Jose Rodriguez, provided us with the musical beats to keep the energy live throughout the event.  We are also fortunate to have one of our former CIPHER graduates, Keane Nishikido, perform a spoken word piece as a message directed to our new graduates and transfer students.


It was certainly an evening filled with energy, vibrant energy, hope, and excitement.  This event would not be possible without the support of many people who helped behind the scenes.  Thank you to Dean Russell Waldon, Michelle Amaral, Lauren Ford, Marisa Thigpen, and Jackie Flores for their support in the financial processes.  Huge gratitude to the CIPHER faculty team – Janice Sapigao, Soledad McCarthy, Dr. Rod Daus-Magbual, Kim Davalos, and Grace Beltran for helping with the coordination of the event.  Thank you to all of the administrators, counselors, faculty and allies for their presence in our space – President Moreno, VPSS Newin Orante, VPI Jennifer Taylor Mendoza, VPAS Eliosa Briones, Dean Michael Kane, Dean Andrea Vizenor, Board of Trustee member Maurice Goodman, Martina Goodman, Danielle Powell, Pcyeta Stroud, Josh Kizler, Melanie Espinueva-Aure, Mandy Lucas, Alejandra Tovar, and many others.  Your presence means a lot to our students, serving as a reminder that our Skyline College community genuinely care for our students.


For more information about the CIPHER Hip Hop Learning Community, you can email Nate Nevado at


Article by Nate Nevado

Photos by Kim Davalos

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