The Advocate rekindles 65 years of memories

Former staffers, editors gather to respect news legacy, future

By Roxana Amparo, Associate Editor

During an evening filled with memories, laughter and tears of joy, former and current Advocate staffers gathered on Saturday night to celebrate years spent in the newsroom at the first ever Advocate reunion dinner.

Despite the years apart, former Advocate editors and supporters rented the ballroom at HS Lordships Restaurant in Berkeley to reconnect and commemorate staffers who have passed away but have not been forgotten by giving scholarships in their memory.

About 94 former staffers and supporters attended the event.

“I think this is a testament of how many people love (adviser Paul DeBolt) at Contra Costa College and throughout the West Contra Costa Unified School District,” Melissa Navas, 2001-2002 Advocate editor-in-chief, said. “The Advocate is so prominent.”

For 65 consecutive years, the award-winning newspaper has thrived with the support and commitment of the college, staffers and faculty advisers, including DeBolt, who has served as journalism department chairperson since 1980 and was editor-in-chief of the paper in 1974-75..

The reunion solidified the strength of journalism although some former staffers chose a different career. The Advocate was the foundation where it began, coming together with a common goal — to give a voice to the voiceless.

Navas, who is presently the press secretary for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, said she was looking forward to connecting faces to names of the actual people that inspired DeBolt to share his stories over the years.

Former sports editor Will White said since 1980, when DeBolt was hired by Contra Costa College to be the adviser of The Advocate, DeBolt has imprinted himself on the lives of his students by “demanding excellence,”

“(DeBolt) is the glue. He’s the foundation. I would not be here if it weren’t for him (and The Advocate),” he said.

DeBolt’s welcoming words took the group back in time when the newsroom was located in the Eddie Rhodes Gallery, before it was moved into AA-215 in 1983.

DeBolt said during those times, before computers and technological advancements, providing the college with a newspaper meant physically cutting and pasting stories onto a page and developing photos in a dark room.

Fine and Media Arts department Chairperson John Diestler said when reminiscing about old times, “CCC was one of the first schools to have digital photography.”

Genoa Barrow, 1994-1995 editor-in-chief, said the reunion will happen again. “Within five to 10 years,” she said. “Maybe 10.”

For the first time, three hall of fame inductee awards were given to former staffers Jim Sanders, Karen de Sá and Peter John LaCrosby for their contributions to The Advocate and in their journalism careers.

“I was an activist. I wanted to make some change,” de Sá said. Currently, she works as an investigative reporter for San Jose Mercury News and has written stories that exposed the inhumane conditions in California’s youth prisons and foster children shelters.

De Sá said, “The Advocate and DeBolt gave me a life.” She said she remembers DeBolt holding her infant child while she wrote stories.

Having a passion for photography, LaCrosby took photos for The Advocate in the early 1990s and went on to capture local, state and national news.

“I say everyone is a star because everyone is made up of star matter,” he said. “We all have the potential to burn bright with passion.”

In memory of three former Advocate staffers who impacted the award-winning newspaper, three memorial scholarships were given to current staffers; Associate Editor and former editor-in-chief Lorenzo Morotti, Sports Editor Robert Clinton and Associate Editor Roxana Amparo.

The Con Garretson Memorial Scholarship went to a student dedicated to responsible reporting (Morotti), the John Baldonado Memorial Scholarship to a student dedicated to sports reporting (Clinton) and the Rowena Millado Memorial Scholarship (Amparo) to a female student who thrives to further journalism integrity.

Other activities included raffles and reflective speeches of those who once were part of The Advocate team.