Celebratory day informs, welcomes high school seniors


Denis Perez / The Advocate

African-American studies major Elijah Morgan raises a sign to gather high school seniors for a tour of the African-American Male Leadership group during Comet Senior Day in the Campus Center Plaza on Thursday.

By Ryan Geller, News Editor

With “Eye of the Tiger” playing in the background, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program coordinator Kelly Ramos went over a detailed battle plan with a group of Contra Costa College students and faculty who were preparing to help introduce over 200 seniors from local high schools to the college for the newly revamped Senior Comet Day.

“OK team,” she said. “We are gonna ‘Beyonce’ this thing!”

Ramos was coordinating one of two welcome sessions that began a full day of college preparatory courses on counseling, financial aid, EOPS, library and tutoring resources Thursday.

Tours of the Auto Shop, the Gymnasium and the culinary department were also part of a schedule that was customized for groups of students with similar interests.

While Ramos’ team was getting ready, another team of CCC students and staff were shaking blue and white pom-poms to welcome buses arriving from nine different local high schools.

The high school seniors were ushered up to GE-225 in a spirited and orderly fashion for the main welcome session. Those interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors were guided farther up the stairs to PS-132 where Ramos’ team was ready to pounce.

In previous years the event has been known as Super Saturday, but this year the organizers of the event tried something new. CCC Outreach Coordinator Maryam Attai said that the new format was intended to provide an experience that is more relevant to the local community.

It was also intended to compliment the work that CCC has already been doing at local high schools.

“This year the format worked better,” financial aid assistant Patty Herrera said. “It was hard to get students to come on a weekend last year, but this time they got out of school to come here and take classes in a college environment — it also gave us the added benefit of having a captive audience.”

The STEM presentation was designed to address the needs of students of color.

The guest emcee, National Science Foundation graduate Robin Lopez, was initially hidden among the audience to appear as though he was just another high school senior. This introduction underscored the point that a person of color, such as Lopez, who looks like many of students attending Senior Comet Day, can become successful in the STEM fields.

“If you have to sacrifice anything of your identity you are not going to succeed,” Lopez said. “I’ve faced harassment even in national research facilities, that is why events like this are important. We can make a difference by supporting students of color in these fields.”

Lopez said his goal is to offer mentorship to other students of color creating a STEM pipeline. He said that there were very few people of color (POC) mentors available to him, especially in a research capacity.

Lopez pointed out that African-Americans make up less than 5 percent of people in STEM fields and Latinx make up less than seven percent.

“It is important for students of color to be vigilant in finding allies. It is essential to have the support of other people in your field. I have had key mentors who were white,” he said.

“It’s not just an issue of white people running things. Many people in privileged spaces are not willing to be vulnerable to allow for changes,” Lopez said.

The main welcome session was emceed by Associated Student Union (ASU) President Alex Walker-Griffin, Senator Chris Miller and Muslim Student Association President Rayah Alammari.

The student leaders shared some of their own experiences at CCC and then interviewed a panel of CCC students about their experiences transitioning to college. Astronomy professor Jon Celesia completed the welcome session with a fitting lecture on comets and reminded incoming students that a new science building is on the way.

In the spirit of showcasing all that CCC has to offer, the culinary department prepared lunch and snacks for the seniors.

During the lunch hour, the seniors could choose from several different programs that included African-American Male Leadership, a job search workshop, a biotech lab tour and more.

Many of the high school students commented on the campus’ new buildings and the cleanliness of the college. Some of the seniors appreciated the CCC student guides.

“I went to another college day where we went around on our own, but it was confusing. The student guides have been helpful and the stories from other students are inspiring,” Sergio Aldana, from Hercules High School, said.

“This school is an interesting place,” Toby Do of Hercules High School said. “People say there is a stigma around going to a community college. But now that I have checked it out for myself, I don’t think that there really is any truth to it.”

One small group of high school students was feeling the independence of college and were on their way off campus after lunch, but they were intercepted by their teachers and lured back.

Later, when the program was over, the same group of high school students was gathered at the Amphitheater dancing and watching their friends audition for the “Battle of Talents” scheduled for May 10.

One woman from the group said, “It’s going to be fun if it’s like this every day.”