My column in the MANILA MAIL for the week of Jan. 22-28, 2014


Stars. Lots of stars.

The Hayward Promise Neighborhood (HPN) “Chabot Promise” Program at Chabot College began in 2010 with President Barack Obama’s Federal Promise Neighborhoods initiative and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The goal of HPN is to improve academic outcomes and increase student success for Hayward students, especially for students who live in or attend school somewhere within the Jackson Triangle. The target schools for this area are Harder Elementary, Park Elementary, Winton Middle School, Cesar Chavez Middle School, Hayward High School, and Tennyson High School. This area, bounded by Jackson Street, Harder Road, and Whitman Street in South Hayward, is considered to be the poorest and most dangerous section of Hayward, with underperforming students, families with a lot of health issues, and a high crime rate. (I live in this very Triangle – now does that give me street cred?)

Despite these difficult challenges, the residents of the Jackson Triangle are renowned for their ethnic diversity and their willingness to do everything it takes to improve conditions for their families and the entire neighborhood. Considered as a gateway community for new immigrants whose desire is to realize the American Dream, Hayward and the students and families with ties to the Jackson Triangle are the real stars of the HPN/Chabot Promise Program.

CSU East Bay is the lead agency for this initiative in collaboration with many community-based partners like government agencies, businesses, educators, and nonprofit organizations, all working to ensure that the children and residents of the HPN are supported and assisted. So the leaders for the HPN are stars in their own right, too.

At Chabot College, the executive stars are Ms. Marie C. DeLeon, the HPN Grant Project Coordinator together with her hardworking and friendly staff. The Chabot Promise Program has many wrap-around services such as: tutoring and academic support, individual advising, career and financial aid workshops, field trips to cultural event sites and university campuses, access to faculty mentors, a $100 voucher to the Chabot College Bookstore, enrollment into PSCN 20 (The College Experience, a 2-unit transferable course), and participation in the 3-day HPN Winter Retreat.

Now the 3-day HPN Winter Retreat already happened last week at Chabot College from January 15-17. I and my fellow program participants got to know each other through some group dynamics activities and attended orientations geared toward introducing us to the many academic support programs in the campus, like Puente, TAACCCT/Career and Transfer Center, Aspire/Excel, and others. On our last day, Ms. Marie guided us through the crafting of our personal “30-second elevator speech” and then we took turns speaking and giving feedback. My fellow participant Obyed, who wants to be a firefighter and criminal justice major, particularly did pretty well with his speech. This mini-workshop, I think, was a fitting ending to our retreat since one of the goals of the entire program is to help us with our academics so that we can transition into careers. Ergo, we must start feeling confident in presenting ourselves to a potential employer even if we theoretically only have 30 seconds with which to do it.

However, for me, another experience during the HPN Winter Retreat that I will never forget happened during Day 2. In the mid-afternoon, we students were asked to attend a presentation at Building 1900 which houses the Science Lecture Rooms and – wait for it – the Planetarium! Prof. Scott Hildreth, who has been teaching Physics and Astronomy at Chabot College for 25 years now, is a very cool, low-key guy but he was obviously proud of his planetarium gadgets with which he can perform magic with the music of the spheres. We were ooohing and aaahing as we looked up to behold a very all-encompassing view of the sky/the Milky Way/the panoramic view of Chabot alternately as projected onto the dome above us. What galactic magic! How fantastic! It was all so beautiful that it almost moved me to tears. The good professor asked us to look for a couple of things that night: the full moon and Jupiter. I told him that I already saw Jupiter the night before, and he agreed when I said that it was a wonderful sight. When he projected a certain constellation onto the dome, I correctly identified it as Orion with his three-star belt. When we were filing out of the planetarium, my fellow student-participant Wobo asked me if I have already taken Astronomy before. I said no, but then I told him that I was an astrologer so part of my learning is to study the heavens, too.

So we have stars above via the Chabot College Planetarium, and we have stars here below in the form of all the people involved as administrators and participants of the Hayward Promise Neighborhood/Chabot Promise Program.

The prime Hermetic Principle is: As above, so below. One is a reflection of the other. If it’s turbulent above, you can bet that there’s also unrest going on below. As a corollary, if all is well in the heavens, then we on earth are in a good place, too. This is a fluid, not static, truth. Everything is in a state of flux, but there is a certain point at which all the forces are in blessed balance.

I’m on a roll now, so I’d just casually quote something from one of my favorite British bands, Coldplay, “Look at the stars/See how they shine for you/and everything that you do.” (This is from their song, “Yellow,” in their 2000 debut album, “Parachutes.”)

Then may the stars continue to shine above for those of us here below. Any which way I look at it, the outlook is spectacularly stellar!

Contact Bles Carmona at, via Facebook at, or follow her on Hayward-20140122-00228

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