At the second Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Black/African American Affairs, LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez discussed over Zoom on Oct. 28 the struggles of remote learning and mental health for Black students.
Rodriguez asked attendees to voice concerns regarding engagement of the Umoja Program, helping Black students during this time and how to successfully promote the program within district colleges.
The Town Hall was open for coordinators and students to speak on the topic listed on the agenda. Attendees also used the Zoom chat box to comment without disrupting the speaker.
Khamani Griffin is a student of LA Valley College and works as a teacher at two private schools. He described that his transition online as a person of color is tough while focusing on keeping his mental health steady and checking in with his peers.
“We’re in a tough time as far as mental health,” Griffin said. “I think that the situation is more uniquely different for African American students within our district at this time.”
Griffin explained that with being at home all the time, it’s harder to have a sense of community or connection with other Black students that they would usually see on campus and in classrooms.
Griffin recommended a free application to establish this new fully online Umoja community and to create a support group-like environment for students to join called Discord.
Discord is normally used for gaming communications.
With working with more than 200 students he’s able to organize chats with students and regulate the chat with admin settings. In addition, he’s able to put students in voice message group chat where he could permit students to send in voice messages or only allow himself to voice message to have the ability to give a lecture.
Discord also allows screen share and video.
Griffin believes that college can create a network of programs where students apart of the program can join, connect and reach out to representatives directly from the colleges’ website.
Counselor and coordinator of the Umoja program at LA Southwest College, Yvette Tucker gave an update of their growing group of students.
“The program has grown to 87 students when I took over the program in 2019, we were down to I believe 38 students”, Tucker said. “So right now, since we’re in this remote environment students need that connection and that’s the central thing.”
Tucker talked about monthly “Porch Talks” and doing check ins with students. At Porch Talk events, students are able to discuss over Zoom a topic. She explained this is how she stays connected with students that are part of the Umoja Program.
In the Zoom chat, program staff of LA Valley College Michelle Fowles said to gain more students to join Umoja they contact all African American students. They’re also working to create an online presence to include in their promotional materials.
Fowles also commented on the discussion of the physical space for students of the Umoja program.
“It’s not just signing up for Umoja, what we do on Valley we have Umoja Black scholars, it’s not just a cohort,” Fowles said. “A lot of us give a lot of time to this effort and that is really what is needed to support it and we need to look at how to build that infrastructure.”
Rodriguez concluded the town hall wanting to advance in smaller groups within the committee as they continue to meet monthly and thanking attendees for coming to the meeting.