March Madness seems to be everywhere this month, and the Peralta Colleges are not immune to the hoop's magic.

Merritt College's men's basketball team made it to the California Community College Athletic Association Final Four after a mesmerizing season wowing fans with its court-commanding prowess. The 15th-seeded Merritt Thunder Birds played the Mt. San Antonio College Mounties on March 15 in the semifinal tournament held in Sacramento, but the ultimate title was elusive: The Mounties defeated Merritt 84-75. The proud T-Birds worked their tail feathers off and energized campus all season long. Watch for them to come back next year.

It wasn't just our student athletes who were winners this spring. Following their recent team gold medal at the American Culinary Federation San Francisco Chapter Junior Culinary Competition, Laney College students continue to work their savory wonders in major culinary arts competitions.

Two of Laney's culinary students, Shana Waqia and Pheobe Sanders, were invited to compete at the San Francisco 2013 Food Show's Chop'd Chef's Competition last month, beating out pro chefs. Moreover, Waqia and Sanders were joined by Laney's Lena Foster and Priscilla Yang in receiving an invitation to compete in the Pacific Northwest Region Chaine des Rotisseurs Jeunes Chefs Competition at the California Culinary Academy Le Cordon Bleu San Francisco. Chef-Professor David Jones has plenty to be proud of with the recent achievements of Laney College's Culinary Arts students.

Calling all young poets: College of Alameda's Latino Unidos Student Club is sponsoring a Cesar Chavez Poetry Contest complete with cash prizes. All Peralta Colleges students and local high school students are encouraged to enter poems.

Alameda's Poet Laureate Mary Rudge and Salvador Murillo, a contemporary of Cesar Chavez and a published poet, will serve as judges. The first prize is $75, with cash prizes given to second- and third-place winners. The winning young poets will be invited to read their poems as part of College of Alameda's Cinco de Mayo celebration. Students should send their poems by April 9 to the club's president, Gabriela Flores, at gabri_ella7250@yahoo.com. Don't forget to include student name, school, age and phone number.

This spring brings a Caribbean flavor to Berkeley City College as it sponsors a Study Abroad in Cuba program for the second consecutive year. BCC's one-week Spanish language cultural study session in Havana, Cuba, is slated for June 1-8. The package includes round-trip airfare, all transportation and local excursions, hotel accommodations and meals. Cost for this once-in-a-lifetime academic trip is $2,975 plus enrollment fees. College credit for the program is transferable to all California State University campuses. For more details, visit www.berkeleycitycollege.edu/wp/cuba-study-abroad.

A shout out to our teachers: During the March 12, meeting of the Peralta Colleges board of trustees, a ceremony was held for faculty who were granted tenure this semester. Honored at the ceremony were two professors from Berkeley City College, political science instructor Matt Freeman and multimedia arts instructor Rachel Simpson. College of Alameda English teacher Patricia Nelson and Laney College learning disabilities specialist Karen Talbot joined them in receiving tenure. Board President Cy Gulassa and District Chancellor Dr. José M. Ortiz presented the faculty members with certificates of recognition upon the successful completion of the four-year tenure review process.

Next month, I'll have more news about the students and teachers who put the word "community" into community college.

Reach Jeffrey Heyman at jheyman@peralta.edu.