Perhaps it's the pervasive feeling of love that seems to embrace all things February, but this month is a full one at the Peralta Colleges -- Berkeley City College, College of Alameda and Laney and Merritt Colleges in Oakland. Whether it was Black History Month activities or the Lunar New Year, our college students found themselves awash in exceptional educational and cultural happenings during February.

Laney College hosted some outstanding speakers in honor of Black History Month. One was Bill Doggett, an independent archivist, whose talk, "The Journey to Freedom Though the Power of Song and Spirit," was simply inspirational. Doggett focused on rare recital reviews of black concert singers from the 1930s through 1950s and drew from his historic audio archive that includes some of the earliest recordings of negro spirituals. The Laney College Library held an exhibit that showcased Doggett's work with rare images of slaves and numerous other pieces from his archives.

Up on the hill, Merritt College also held a number of Black History Month events, including a free West African dance workshop by Mama Kelly, a guest lecture by Oba T'Shaka concerning intergenerational unity through new African culture, and a talk about the women of South Africa entitled "Always Strong! Always Beautiful! Always Resistant!" by Danea Martinez. There were a range of events too numerous to mention held at the other Peralta Colleges commemorating Black History Month and the Lunar New Year.

The Peralta Colleges Foundation, which provides scholarships and other support to students, faculty and staff, had a surprising start to the new year when its executive director, Romeo Garcia, opened an envelope from the San Francisco Foundation that contained a check from an anonymous donor for $250,000. The amount floored Garcia. The badly needed funds will be used to build the capacity of the Peralta Colleges Foundation so it can serve students in need.


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"These funds will help us leverage additional support to increase scholarships that promote student success," Garcia said. The foundation is also seeking to get the tens of thousands of former Peralta students involved in its work. If you attended one of the Peralta Colleges, contact the foundation through its website at http://web.peralta.edu/foundation.

Exciting research: 66 million years ago, a large asteroid or comet impacted the Earth causing the demise of most of the plant and animal life on our planet. What does that have to do with our community colleges? Well, College of Alameda chemistry professor Peter Olds has assembled a team of students -- Jon Howell, Jessica Ng and Jenna Luckhardt -- who are examining minerals deposited with this impact that could tell us if the rocks are terrestrial or from another world. Whatever the answer, it will be new and exciting.

The college's research is being done at the Earth and Planetary Science Department at UC Berkeley, where at least one of the students plans to transfer. It is hoped that the project could be expanded into a rock chemistry program at the new Peralta Science Facility, 860 Atlantic Ave., Alameda, allowing a greater number of science students to benefit from the experience. A job well done may result in a student qualifying for transfer to a top university or a lucrative employment opportunity at a private or government lab. There are a number of outstanding science programs at the Peralta Colleges, and we'll be watching to see how these students do as they explore the origins of the universe.

That's it for this month. Next time, I'll have more news about the students, teachers and staff who put the word "community" into community college.

Reach Jeffrey Heyman at jheyman@peralta.edu.