Umoja Stories: 2023

We're highlighting some of our Umoja students and faculty members at De Anza, as part of this year's observance of Black Student Success Week

Open House on Wednesday

Meet students and faculty members and learn more about Umoja during this special open house:

  • Wednesday, April 26: 11 a.m. to noon
  • Fireside Room, Campus Center

Visit the Umoja Events webpage to learn about more activities for Black Student Success Week.

Meet Some of Our Students

Jessica Bryant

Jessica Bryant

Major: Liberal Arts – Arts and Letters

Meet Jessica

Hi! My name is Jess Bryant (she/her), and I was born and raised in San José. I am a first-year student at De Anza, majoring in Liberal Arts with an Arts and Letters Emphasis, but my goal is to major in Linguistics when I transfer to a four-year university. The top three universities I would like to transfer to are the University of Washington, UC San Diego and UCLA.

I have a passion for how people communicate and express themselves, specifically through language and culture, and I would like to succeed at pursuing this passion in my academics and future career. In order to reach this goal, I have been working hard at De Anza.

One resource that has helped me pave my path to success is the Umoja program because it has allowed me to meet peers who share similar backgrounds, get through my hardest courses with support, and build a connection with the campus and its students and staff.

There is still much I wish to accomplish at De Anza before I transfer – such as getting involved with DASG or other clubs that will connect me to more of De Anza's student body – and I am excited to continue my journey!

Lydia Dessu

Lydia Dessu

Major: Business Administration

Meet Lydia

Hello! My name is Lydia Dessu, and I was born and raised in San José. I am a first-year student at De Anza, majoring in Business Administration. My goal is to transfer to a four-year university and major in business with an emphasis in finance, or become a finance major. After getting my bachelor’s degree, I plan to continue my education and earn a master’s degree. The top universities I would want to transfer to are UC Berkeley, USC and UCLA.

I am passionate about helping people gain financial literacy and closing the wealth gap. My passion about this subject is mainly due to being a first-generation Ethiopian-American. Growing up Ethiopian-American, the ever-growing wealth gap – not only here in America but on a global scale – has always been evident to me. Because of this, I have always wanted to understand how economics works, why there is such a massive wealth gap, and how I can play a part in closing the wealth gap and helping people with my skills. 

Umoja has played a major part in why I have had such a great experience during my first year and why I have been able to be successful. The transition into college was very effortless, because being a part of Umoja allowed me to be part of a community of other Black students who are dedicated and hard-working. 

Joining Umoja also provided me the opportunity to have professors and counselors who genuinely wanted us to succeed, but at the same time pushed us to do our best. Going into De Anza, my biggest fear was navigating the community college system, and it was very difficult trying to figure it out on my own. But joining Umoja took that stress out of my hands and allowed me to focus on my education.

Paulo Newsome

Paulo Newsome

Major: Real Estate

Meet Paulo

Hi. My name is Paulo Newsome and I am a San José native, born and raised in the Bay Area. I am a 19-year-old, first-year De Anza attendee and I am majoring in Real Estate. My goal is to obtain my real estate license, while transferring out on time, and I hope to study abroad in another country due to my deep love for traveling and seeing the world outside of California.

I greatly enjoy fashion and other textiles that involve creatively expressing myself in new ways. Some of my favorite brands are Stussy and the creative works by Aime Leon Dore. I would love to get more involved in fashion or design, and things involving architecture and interior design really fascinate me as well.

Some of my hobbies include weightlifting and bodybuilding, staying active with sports, and being out in nature to find new ideas or inspiration for a new project to tackle, because I really enjoy being creative in ways such as drawing, painting, and using other sculptural techniques. I’m also an avid music listener.

My freshman year at De Anza has enlightened me to a point where I can say I know I am on the right track, to say the very least. I have learned a lot that is not only school-related, but about myself. One thing I really noticed is that perspective and keeping a positive view on life is super important because you are your own main character. Your mind is a powerful tool that can shape you in any way you truly believe. It has helped me gain a lot of confidence in my academic skills, and allowed me to make choices I would have struggled with making before. I will continue to work as hard as I can to reach my goals and finish what I started.

There are many convenient resources on campus that I have used that have allowed me to strive this year, such as the quiet library where I have done a lot of my work, the walk-in tutors. My amazing Umoja counselor, Maurice Canyon, and the Umoja community have given me a safe space to grow.

One thing that really helps is that I try to do all of my assignments when I get them, or at least in a timely manner; that way I am not stressing about cramming everything in at the last minute. This has really helped improve my mental focus, and allowed me to succeed.

“Success” to me personally, is defined by the grind. It is the undeniable effort to achieve personal greatness, to be the best you can be, even if it is slightly better than you were yesterday. It is the determination to never give up, no matter the obstacle – and if you do get in a slump, which many of us do, you keep pushing. That is success in my eyes. So within this next year, I hope to obtain more exposure at De Anza to not only meet new people, but to gain more opportunities for success in the future.

Rhema Sosimi

Rhema Sosimi

Major: Business Administration

Meet Rhema

Hi. I'm Rhema Sosimi. My major here at De Anza is currently declared as Business Administration, but my interest in both software engineering and business led me to my desired major for transfer – Management Information Systems, along with a minor in Computer Science. My ambition down this path is to utilize computer and business knowledge to eventually evolve into a career in software engineering or technical product management. 

I've discovered vital assistance through course instructor office hours, the Writing and Reading Center and Umoja counselor Maurice Canyon. Success refers to the achievement of one's goals and aspirations, and encountering this program has contributed greatly to fulfilling my academic aspirations. 

Umoja highlights your own personal goals and does an outstanding job in helping guide you toward reaching them. I truly enjoyed being provided with the best instructors, so I didn't have to go searching for them on "Rate My Professor."

Jade Stevens

Jade Stevens

Major: Psychology

Meet Jade

Hello! My name is Jade Stevens (she/her) and I am from San José. I am a first-year student at De Anza and my major is Psychology. I plan on continuing in this field when I transfer to a four-year university and eventually obtain my Ph.D. I want to pursue a career that is within the field of research and therapy.  The main colleges I am aiming to transfer to are UC Berkeley and the University of San Francisco.

I am passionate about meeting new people and understanding the different types of people within our society. I value the importance of learning about different lifestyles and hopefully, I get the chance to do so in the future with my career. In the process of achieving this goal, I have been receiving the help of being a part of the Umoja program.

Umoja has allowed me to meet so many supportive people that have the same goals as me. As a result, I had a smooth transition from high school and it was easy for me to build strong connections with my counselor and teachers as well. I wish to accomplish so much more with my time at De Anza, as I plan to be more involved with extracurriculars. I am looking forward to facing upcoming challenges, while also experiencing the thrilling moments of my educational journey!

Meet Some of Our Faculty

  • Derrick Felton

    Derrick FeltonDerrick E. Felton became part of the De Anza College community in 2019. He is an adjunct lecturer in the Social Sciences and  Humanities Division, teaching Psychology. In addition, he is a Psychological Services counselor, supporting students in managing their day-to-day college life stress.

    His words: When I think of the Umoja community and critical approaches to my teaching style, I would say it is about connecting and being authentic. When teaching, students must know that you understand the challenges and struggles they bring into the classroom. That realness allows the connection to develop where they stay after class because your teaching style shows you care.

    Teaching at De Anza, especially Umoja students, is a privilege and honor. Finally, students can see a person of color that they can relate to and expect nothing but the best for them. What keeps me returning is that moment in class when students look around the room and realize they belong and have found their community.

  • Julie Keiffer-Lewis

    Julie Keiffer-LewisDr. Julie Keiffer-Lewis (she/her) is a graduate of Modesto Junior College (A.A.), San Francisco State University (B.A. and M.A.) and Mills College (Ed.D.). She is a scholar, instructor, activist, writer, curriculum designer, program developer, educational coach and historical systems analyst who brings a wealth of expertise and passion to her work. She specializes in LGBTQ+ communities, communities of color and women, with a focus on intersectionality, systems of oppression, privilege, healing strategies and understanding the importance of obtaining individual agency within institutions.

    Dr. Keiffer-Lewis is the department chair of African American Studies at De Anza College. She teaches Introduction to African American Studies for the Umoja program.

    Her words: I absolutely love teaching for the Umoja program because it gives me an opportunity to connect and be in community with our African ancestry students. I love the passion, excitement and scholarship our students bring into the course.

    As a professor, I strive to show, not only in my words but through my actions, that my students matter, their experiences are important, and they belong in institutions of higher learning. Teaching in the Umoja program allows me an opportunity to give back and support the next generation of African American scholars.

  • Julie Wilson

    Julie WilsonJulie Wilson teaches English and Language Arts at De Anza.

    Her words: I grew up in Vallejo, CA. In the fourth grade, I transferred to a different school from the one attended by my older sisters. At my new school, I followed the actions of my friends who had college-educated parents. That led me to UC Berkeley. I was very clear that being the first in my family to go to college unfortunately had everything to do with luck. So, I’ve always wanted to become a teacher to help respond to issues of equity. I’ve worked with all ages and am happy to be in the community college system, especially because of its open enrollment. I’m also a curious person and a lifelong learner; after Berkeley, I attended Howard University, Stanford University and San Francisco State. 

    In my interactions with my Umoja students, I work to see and understand where they are coming from. This is particularly important given the anti-Blackness embedded in our society. I emphasize and recognize effort because while we all come from different places, effort is central to personal growth. A great joy I get in working with Umoja students is our shared cultural connections. I’m able to share more of myself with students and we develop a feeling of family/community. This helps sustain me and, I hope, gives them a safer space in their academic journeys.

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