SMC's Umoja Community Kicks off Black Collegian Program's 30th Year Event

 Quenarii Lampkin, President of the Black Collegians Club at Santa Monica College, stands in front of the Black Collegians & Latino Student Services Center on Thursday September 5, 2019 at the main campus of Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, Calif. This Thursday was the Welcome event of the Black Collegians Community that celebrates their 30th anniversary this year.

Eline Millenaar / The Corsair

“This program [is] a prime example that other programs across the state try to follow,” said Black Collegians Club President Quenarii Lampkin of SMC’s chapter.

Sherri Bradford, leader of the Black Collegians Program, welcomed large crowds of students into the Lecture Hall at the main campus on Thursday, Sept. 5. In the 30 years of the program's existence, she had never seen a turnout this large to one of their events.

Hosted by the Black Collegians Umoja Community of Santa Monica College (SMC), Thursday's event was the program's first event of the school year. Umoja is a Kiswahili word that means unity, which signifies their mission to enhance the cultural and educational experiences of African American students. According to Black Collegians Club President Quenarii Lampkin, SMC stands out above the other Umoja communities in the state.

“The program has been around for so long that it just has been more developed,” said Lampkin. “This makes this program a prime example that other programs across the state try to follow.”

For many attendees, their interest to attend was sparked by one of the program's orientation sessions in August. SMC freshman Tiani Joseph said that she came because of the community. Other students attending the welcome event echoed this involvement with the Black Collegians Community (BCC) to meet fellow black college students.

“I wanted to find other black kids, because I didn’t have a lot of those at my high school,” said Joseph.

When SMC counselor Chris Baccus introduced himself to the students, he reiterated the importance of this community. His involvement with the BCC started about 20 years ago, and he believes the program grew this much because of the students who dedicated their time to it.

“This program get you the resources that you need to help yourself,” said Baccus. “We want to help everyone be successful, because we’re a community.”

The BCC also offers priority enrollment, book vouchers, and scholarships to students that become part of the Black Collegians Program. The program also connects accepted students with specific resources and dedicated counselors under the BCC. According to the counselors, being part of the program can also open the door to opportunities outside of the campus.

During Thursday's event, the BCC highlighted the importance of having African American professors and counselors that black SMC students can relate to. One example of this is Dr. Nicole Woodard, who shared her story with the students at the welcome event. Thanks to the support of the BCC, she was able to get her life back on track and obtain her AA degree at Santa Monica College. She is now a psychology professor, educating students at the same college that started her own journey.

“Statistics show that there's a gap," said Lampkin. "Minorities don’t achieve as high as others. Programs like this give us all the resources that we need. As a black student, I have no excuse to not do well, because I have all this support behind me.”

After the introductions of the counselors and board members, a statement of their community agreements, and instructions on how to join the Club, the welcome event finished off with a game of Kahoot.

With the program going into its 30th year for the Fall 2019 semester, the Black Collegians Program is ready to continue promoting the success of African American students by providing resources that are specific to their culture. Students interested in applying for the Black Collegians Program may visit SMC's Black Collegians website or visit the Black Collegians Center, which is located in the Student Services Center on the second floor.