As protests against racial injustice and police brutality surged last year, De Anza College formed a committee to hire a full-time tenured counselor for its Umoja program.
Maurice Canyon filled that need this school year, as a former Umoja member dedicated to giving back to the community that guided him.
Canyon, a San Francisco native, said he did not feel a connection to his college (the City College of San Francisco) until he met his Umoja counselor, Robert Clark.
“It took a learning community like Umoja for me to be successful with my college experience,” Canyon said. “I still have a relationship with my counselor to this day.”
After budget cuts and a generally chaotic history, De Anza Umoja students said they felt unsupported by the administration last year. Canyon said he hopes he can bring a breath of fresh air.
“It’s a fresh start for me to rebrand and rebuild the community,” Canyon said. “There’s a framework for how the program’s run, but there’s a lot left to be incorporated for it to really be successful.”
Canyon said he plans to increase recruitment from local high schools, build partnerships with California State University and University of California schools to increase the transfer rate, and start an A2mend charter which focuses on mentoring Black men.
His chief plan, though, is to be there for his students.
“I know what it’s like to feel intimidated by the college process,” Canyon said. “I want to be there, be relatable and ease the burden, ease the anxiety for our underrepresented, underserved students.”
Justice Merriman, a 20-year-old sociology major, said Canyon helped her navigate the transfer process. She plans to attend UC Irvine this fall.
“He kept me on track to meet several guidelines and helped me update my educational plans,” Merriman said.
Starting at De Anza in the summer of 2020, Beniam Gabrat said he found remote learning to be a challenge. He said Canyon brightened his experience.
“I was having a lot of difficulties at first and he changed my whole perspective on the experience,” said Gabrat, 24, electrical engineering major. “(He) communicated regularly, came into my classes and offered help to all students, whether they’re Umoja or not.”
Canyon’s counselor page can be found here.