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Merritt Alumna Credits Histotech Program for Successful Career

10 December 2018

With a strong interest in science, Feather Ives headed from El Cerrito High School to San Diego State University as a first-generation college student to follow her passion. Though her intended path did not work out as planned at first, she would end up years later with lots of real-life experiences behind her as she transitioned to an in-demand career in science.

“I ended up majoring in public administration at SDSU which enabled me to do something practical and get my professional life started,” says Feather. “My first ‘adult’ job was an advertising sales position at the LA Daily News where I was put into leadership roles. Then I spent the next 10 years building my resume in various industries.”

So while her science dreams were put on hold, the rest of her life was most certainly moving at full speed: In business, she managed small and midsize teams, worked in business development, and was an affordable housing property manager. She even spent a year and a half teaching English in South Korea. In pursuing her interest in public health, she provided re-entry assistance to prisoners at San Quentin, taught English online to girls in Afghanistan, and is a board member for an organization that provides integrative medicine to women with cancer living below the poverty line. In January 2015, she had a daughter and became a stay-at-home mom for two years.

It was during that time she attended a housewarming party for a friend who had recently completed the Merritt Histotechnology Program. The friend explained that histotechnology involved thinly slicing and staining biopsy tissue and preparing slides for viewing under a microscope to diagnose diseases.

“I had always been interested in pathology and when I heard that the Merritt program would cost only $2,000 and I could earn $70,000 and up, I enrolled in the first courses that spring of 2016.

Feather credits Microscopy Program Director Gisele Giorgi with her success in getting through the rigorous schedule. “Gisele was my professor and my mentor, and she was so supportive,” says Feather. “She also has great connections with companies who are looking for interns, and I ended up being offered two internships at the same time—Gladstone Institute and Chan Zuckerberg Biohub—where I got on-the-job training and learned a ton working on the microscopes and in the wet lab.” She also was thrilled to have a scientific article published with several other authors in the prestigious journal Nature during her time at Biohub.

In two years, the hard work in classes and experience in internships paid off. Feather was offered her “dream job” at UC Berkeley where she is currently a Research Associate in the Molecular Imaging Center and works with director Holly Aaron who is on the Merritt Microscopy Program’s advisory board.

“It says a lot about the biosciences programs at Merritt,” says Feather. “There are no barriers to entry. You apply to Merritt and enroll in the intro microscopy course. Histotech and microscopy jobs are in high demand with openings across the country in private industry, universities, and hospitals.  I also love this program because of its inclusion and diversity in age, gender, and race. Our program looks how science classrooms should look everywhere.”

To help others achieve success, Feather has been mentoring Merritt students to help them transition into higher-paying jobs so they can continue to live in the Bay Area. “Many of our students are mid-career,” she says, “and the goal is to train folks for jobs that get them out from under the $20 per hour range and earning $35 an hour or more.

Feather has recently been accepted into a Master’s of Public Health Program and is deciding which of her many interests she’ll pursue. But whatever she does, she says she’ll always remember the college’s slogan ‘We Change Lives’ and be grateful to Merritt for providing the program and support that changed hers.

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Get Ready For a Relaxing New Year….Add Yoga to Your Schedule! Starts 1/22, 6-6:50

10 December 2018

Will you be ready to de-stress after the hectic holidays? Why not add yoga to your schedule and free your mind to start the new year! Back by popular demand, Sabrina Smith will teach yoga at three levels in the same class:  Fundamentals (51A), Beginning (51B) or Intermedate (51C). You will learn yoga stretches and postures, conscious breathing patterns, and relaxation techniques. Enroll now at For questions, contact instructor Sabrina Smith at


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Plans Underway for First Latinx Graduation Celebration to Honor Student Achievements

10 December 2018

In the last speech before his death in 1993, Cesar Chavez spoke of education as being one of the biggest battles for Latinos. If children were to find success in society, he said, they must be encouraged to complete as much education as possible.

Throughout the years, Merritt College has worked toward this goal by continuously recruiting, supporting, and advocating for its Latinx students to follow through on Chavez’s legacy. The college has had an active Puente Program for more than 30 years and recently achieved HSI status (Hispanic-Serving Institution) with more than 30 percent of Latinx students. That population is also supported by the District-wide PACLA (Peralta Association of Chicanx and Latinx DeAztlan.)

This year, for the first time, the Latinx students will be publicly recognized for their accomplishments and their heritage at the Latinx Graduation Celebration (LGC) on April 27, to be held in the Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale Student Lounge. Hard at work planning to make this event a success is a committee of 29 members, co-chaired by Dr. Lilia Chavez, Maria Suarez Rodriguez, Dr. Mario Rivas, Rosa S. Perez, Dr. Marty Zielke, Jennifer Briffa, Isela Santana, Jose Salceda, and Dr. Rick Ramos, and including Dean Jason Holloway and Dean Syed Hussain.                                                                                                                                                                         

“For many years we wanted to have a Latinx graduation, but we didn’t have the appropriate support,” says Jennifer Briffa, Child Development instructor. “Now with the increase in Latinx faculty and students, we have support from faculty, staff, and administrators, and students from ASMC, Puente and First-Year Experience.”

The event is designed to portray the accomplishments of Latinx students to their proud families, friends and community members. Along with the ceremony honoring each student, there will be a spiritual blessing, guest speakers, music, short speeches by student honorees, awards and recognitions to supporters, and light refreshments. Each graduate will be presented with a specially designed stole marking the memorable occasion.

The committee considers the event to be more than just a graduation, but a way to also rejoice in the achievements of Merritt’s students as they move out into the world and represent their heritage in their successful new ventures.

“This milestone event is intended not only to celebrate students’ achievements,” says Mario, “but also to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting the Latinx community by helping students access college opportunities so they can move on to higher paying careers and positions of leadership in our society.”

Photo: Planning for the first-ever LatinX Graduation Celebration are some of the nearly 30 committee members: (left to right)  Rosa Perez, Jennifer Briffa, Rick Ramos, Maria Suarez Rodriguez, and Mario Rivas.

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Join a New Learning Community and Earn Double Units: AFRAM History, Culture, and Music

30 November 2018

If you are interested in African-American Studies AND Music, you can now earn units for both classes at one time in this new interdisciplinary learning community. Just enroll in both AFRAM 30 and MUSIC 11 and you’ll  be learning a combination of African-American history, along with music, art, and culture, and earning transfer units for both! See flyer below, and for questions about this new innovative program at Merritt, contact Jason Seals ( or Monica Ambalal (

Filed under: news, Newsletter

HBCU Alumni Give Students Advice from First-Hand Experience

28 November 2018

From Angela Khoo: On Thursday November 15th, Merritt College Transfer Center hosted an HBCU Information session led by a panel represented by alumni of HBCU  (Historic Black Colleges & Universities). Students got to hear from first-hand experience all about their challenges and the support they received on the road and the pathway to the HBCUs and life after HBCU!  Thank you Dr. Kitchen, an alumni of Lincoln University, for hosting us at the ASMC chambers. Next Spring we will host our second panel session about Life on Campus and how to afford a HBCU education!

Seated let to right are:

  • Alisa Burton – Spelman College
  • Joan Morris – Xavier University
  • Allison McMillan – Abbott Lab HBCU Recruiting Team member
  • Betty Booker – Grambling State University




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One Holiday Down, More to Come! Admissions & Records Starts Early!

24 November 2018

IMG_4837Even before Thanksgiving,  Susana de la Torre and staff members Marisol Roque and Dayana Juarez in Admissions and Records  were getting out the winter holiday decorations to hang, with some help from Birhon Quizhpe. Welcome back to work until the next holiday and the new year!

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Don’t Miss the Holiday-Themed Merritt S.O.U.L on 12/13 with Snacks; Last One of the Year!

17 November 2018

Mark your calendars for the last Merritt S.O.U.L. event of the year on Thursday, Dec. 13, from 12 to 4 p.m. in D-144 where we will be providing holiday cheer along with fresh produce.   After a successful fall where we have also been offering healthy snacks to eat while you “shop,” (and providing the recipes), we will be offering one final opportunities to select fresh produce before the new year, as well as information about nutrition and full healthy meals to plan for yourself or your families. And if you have a recipe to share, please send to Brandon Christian at bchristian@peralta.ed. Hope to see you on Dec. 13 and sample the special snacks and recipes we’ll have for the holidays!



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Find Out All the News in the November Merritt Connection

16 November 2018

See what’s new in the latest issue of The Merritt Connection! Get the schedule for the exciting faculty and staff exhibition, “The Art We Make,” that runs through November 27, and see the work of your talented colleagues. Read about the progress of the Guided Pathways Core Team and see how you can participate! Then find out more about one of the Core Team members, Stefani de Vito, and how her extensive background in counseling and education make her the perfect choice for making Guided Pathways a success.  Have a great Thanksgiving and all holidays and The Merritt Connection will be back in February just after school begins.

Click here for the complete issue!


Filed under: news

Students Learn the True Meaning of “Music Appreciation” on Trip to San Francisco Symphony

16 November 2018

music photo copyThough students aren’t known for taking pleasure in getting up early, 30 of them from Monica Ambalal’s music class gladly boarded a bus before 8 a.m. on October 18 headed to the SF Symphony (Davies Symphony Hall) to attend a 2-1/2 hour early-morning rehearsal of music by Ravel, Debussy, and Bartok. For many of them, like Alex, it was the first time they had been to the performance of a large orchestr

 “It was a great experience and opportunity to go to a symphony for the first time,” he says. “The mixture of sounds from every instrument came together so smoothly, and I really enjoyed it.”

Monica has been taking her students to live performances for as long as she has been teaching music. “Nothing compares to a live orchestra for both aural and visual experiences,” she says. “The students have so many questions when they return about the percussion section, the layout of the violins, the lighting in the hall. Those are things we could never think to talk about just by simply watching a YouTube video.”

She also believes it’s important to show her students that opportunities exist in their own communities and that this music is not just geared for the wealthy or elite anymore. “I show our students that young people and people of color are out there singing opera, playing cello at Carnegie Hall, and thriving in conservatories. Classical music is accessible today, and I’m here to guide students in finding opportunities to hear it.”

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Enjoy the Artwork of Your Colleagues at the “The Art We Make”; See Schedule

8 November 2018

Chris Grampp draws artistic “Meeting Doodles,” Jennifer Briffa designs Dia de los Muertos altars, Tara Marrero does “Coloring for Comfort from Anxiety.” They are among the 14 faculty and staff members who answered Sheila Metcalf-Tobin’s call to display their work in an Enjoy the artworkexhibition, “The Art We Make,” currently being shown in the S-352 Gallery.

Though some of the exhibitors may not consider themselves “artists,” Sheila says that is precisely the reason she wanted them to show their work, as she eloquently explains: “The purpose of this exhibition is not just for those who create work that we think of as art, it is to gather us together in celebration around the human experience of creativity and making,” she says. Some of us have been lucky to have the opportunities to develop our creativity. Others may have been discouraged and stopped trying. This exhibition is meant to celebrate all that we make that may have brought us joy or perhaps a moment of peace. It is to celebrate however we individually define our art.”

Come and appreciate your colleagues’ work during the following schedule through November 27: Tuesdays, Noon-2 p.m.; Wednesdays 9:30-11:30 a.m.; Thursdays  (1st and 3rd) 12-1 p.m. & 3-4 p.m.; or by appointment by contacting Sheila at

Merritt artists, left to right: Pablo Villicana, Chris Grampp, Noel Fagerhaugh, Dan Lawson, Jennifer Briffa, Sheila Metcalf-Tobin, Maril Bull, LaShaune Fitch, Dianne Jones, Nghiem Thai. (Not pictured: Angela Khoo, Tara Marrero, Tomoko Nakazato, Sean Nash, and Saadi Shapiro.


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