UMOJA At Grossmont

UMOJA serves to unite its community by proving classes, counseling, tutoring and more from an African and African-American perspective.


Past UMOJA class attending the Black Panther Debut. | Photo courtesy of Jason Allen

Marc Cordero, Staff Writer

The goal of college is to succeed and set your career on the right path. However, it may be difficult for people to do well in college, depending on their situation or background. There are many programs at Grossmont College that aim to help, with each one focused on different students. One example of this is the UMOJA program.

Grossmont encourages African and African American students to join UMOJA, a program designed to help them succeed academically by providing dedicated staff with the training and availability to work with the students’ needs. 

“The goal of the program is to unify entire campuses behind the efforts of increasing academic success and academic retention for black and African American students,” said Jason Allen, the former coordinator of the UMOJA program and current director of athletics. 

“Umoja” is a Swahili word that stands for “unity.” The program aims to unite its community, and, according to Allen, the program does what it can for its students to “retain, persist and succeed.”

However, Allen also mentioned that this program welcomes everyone from all cultures, races and backgrounds. Still, he said that most of the program’s offerings come from the “lense of the black or African American experience or the African diaspora.”

The UMOJA program also teaches time management and study skills. It also offers counseling and classes from a Black or African perspective.

“That program really helped,” said Amanual Mikre, a former UMOJA student and ambassador of the program. “I went from a 2.4 to a 3.5 through UMOJA.” 

He explained that tutoring, counseling and other resources cleared his mind and helped him focus and succeed. 

Mikre also said the program would occasionally take trips to conferences with other UMOJA programs in the state or explore university campuses. 

According to Allen, UMOJA started in California around the mid-2000s by people who saw the need to improve the academic outcomes of Black and African-American students. Grossmont heavily supported UMOJA and brought the program’s offerings to its students.

Allen took the role of coordinator for the UMOJA program in 2016 and saw an increase in student involvement, with 2019 being the peak of the program, enrollment-wise.

But we all know what happened following 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic took a considerable toll on the program, with enrollment numbers falling. “It just felt like the rug was really snatched out from under us,” Allen said. 

Despite his transfer out of the role as the UMOJA coordinator, Allen said there are plans to interview more counselors who can join and help coordinate the program. The college also hopes to increase enrollment numbers as more students return to in-person classes.

Past Grossmont UMOJA class at the A2MEND Conference. | Photo courtesy of Jason Allen

Students who would like to learn more about UMOJA can head to the front desk at Grossmont’s counseling department.

The college recommends its students utilize the programs and resources designed to help them succeed. As Mikre added: “Don’t be scared to be uncomfortable. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations to be successful.”