UMOJA connects students with scholarships

By: Steven Adamo

In keeping with the “Umoja spirit,” The East Los Angeles College Umoja Community hosted two scholarship workshops Thursday on Zoom.

Meaning “unity” in Swahili, the Umoja Community is a global group of educators who work together in order to inspire and uplift students of African descent. 

“Place yourself in the student’s shoes instead of just saying “because I said so,” said Golden Sheard from ELAC’s Umoja Community and host of the event.

Sheard’s goal is to help students understand that the global community they are a part of begins on the inside.

“Doing the best that you can so that you can then work in service to others,” Sheard said. “So often, people think of Blackness, African-American, in Africa,” Sheard said, “but really the diaspora spans globally. There’s a lot more focus on the Afro-Latinx populations these days and goes to show how deeply entrenched the bloodlines are.”

Through events like the Scholarship Workshop, Sheard shares resources for students looking to help pay for the cost of an education.

One resource she shared is a list of current scholarships through the Student Information System portal. Once logged in, if students click the “Scholarships” link, it compiles all the available scholarships based on their student record. ELAC also has some scholarships available through its foundation site ( However, students enrolled in college have access to other county, state and national scholarship offered by organizations, people and corporations.

One link Sheard shared is from the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund ( Though the deadlines for many of the scholarships that MALDEF offers have passed, Sheard recommends saving the dates so that the student can prepare for the same scholarship the following year if it’s offered.

One of the most important aspects of filling out scholarships is the thesis statement, or a “prompt.” Sheard emphasizes the importance of going a little beyond the minimum word count, and to avoid going over the limit.

There are plenty of online resources for writing a good statement, one of which is a thesis generator from the University of Arizona (

ELAC’s Umoja Community currently has a space on campus for one-on-one meetings. As more ELAC staff and students get involved with the ELAC Umoja Community, Sheard is hoping to start hosting “Porch Talks,” regular informal meetings where group conversation is encouraged.

Though many applications have requirements that go beyond what the student has earned, Sheard recommends applying regardless. Sometimes, scholarships are awarded to students who don’t meet the requirements if no other student applied. As Sheard’s mother used to tell her: “nothing beats a fail but a try.”

One of the students who participated in the scholarship workshop, Rosa Dominguez, is also a part of a program called LA College Promise, a state-funded program which helps fund the first two years of the student’s college experience.

Some of the assistance that LA College Promise provides is emergency assistance, which can help pay for issues that might arise during the semester such as car trouble. For more information, visit

To learn more about the Umoja Community and to get involved, this Thursday at 2 p.m., all Umoja Communities from the Los Angeles Community College District will host a virtual mixer on Zoom. The mixer will feature a guest speaker, games, prizes and a focus on community building. To register, visit

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