Umoja Graduates Shine Bright During Graduation Celebration


L to R: MVC President, Dr. Robin Steinback; Umoja Most Improved Student, Adrian Caraballo; MVC Professor Robert Mason

Doreena Carter, Staff Writer

Moreno Valley College’s Umoja program celebrated its students Tuesday, June 6th during the Umoja Graduation ceremony.

Umoja is a community organization that is committed to strengthening the educational and cultural experiences of African-American and other students.  Through a curriculum and pedagogy sensitive to the legacy of the African and African-American Diasporas, Umoja actively supports and encourages student success for all students.

The Umoja Graduation celebration began by students and audience members giving honor to the ancestors who came before them and supported them. Graduates also stood up to give thanks to the audience that was filled with friends and family holding high regards for those who encouraged and assisted  them along the way.

“We all stand for those who came before us and paved the way for us as well as our children’s children’s children,” said Dean of Student Development and Wellness, Brandy Avila  as she opened the night with a traditional libation ceremony.  

Numerous guests and faculty members took a few moments to address the graduates in attendance. Moreno Valley College President, Dr. Steinback shared words of encouragement telling the story of Serena Williams, one of the most celebrated and known tennis players in the world, to inspire the group. “In the words of Serena, ‘I don’t know if I had my share of drama, but I had my share of hard times,’ ” said Dr. Steinback. “If someone like Serena can have hard times, I know that you will as well, but I also know that you will persevere!”

Vice President of Student Services, Christopher Sweeten brought a powerful peroration “I come here black…” while listing admirable Black public figures, activists and known victims who have succumbed to unjust tragedies. During his speech, he made to emphasize the impact and sacrifices they made for African-American communities. 

Umoja Student, Adrian Callabow, received the Herbert Wallenger award for Most Improved Student, now called the Rod M. Mason Scholarship Award. The awards presentation was followed by Umoja student, Denise Torres who shared her story about how the Umoja community helped her get through hard times while providing resources to support her reach her educational goals. 

This year 75 students completed the Umoja Program and were awarded custom stoles hand made and blessed from Ghana to wear during commencement. The  ceremony concluded with graduates chanting, “I did it because we did it” enthusiastically before lining up to walk across the stage as the few of many 2023 Umoja graduates.