News Hub


PUMA Center – Right Where You Belong

Jun 24, 2022

When Paulina Vaclav enrolled at DVC, she hoped to find a place where she felt comfortable and accepted. 

“In high school, I sometimes I felt like I wasn’t seen, or like I didn’t belong there. But at the DVC PUMA Center, I feel represented,” said Vaclav. 

What is the PUMA Center?

Paulina VaclavThe PUMA Center is the home for three college access and success programs that support underrepresented students – Puente, Umoja, and MESA. These programs provide an enriched student experience that leads to greater success.

“I remember looking around the center. It was filled with people of color, my people, and I just let out a sigh of relief,” said Vaclav.

“The PUMA Center builds and nurtures community by embracing and validating students’ cultural identity and humanity. The center has also expanded to serve the First Year Experience (FYE) Program, Program for Adult College Education (PACE), and the Community of Pride,” said Ada Ocampo, the manager of student engagement and early college experiences.

DVC students in the PUMA CenterStudents visiting the center build leadership skills and connect with mentors and peers. Enrichment activities create a sense of belonging that enhances their own experience at DVC, while extending cultural awareness throughout the broader campus community. 

“Each learning community focuses on different, underserved students. Puente focuses on the Latinx students, Umoja supports African American students and friends of Umoja students, and MESA supports underrepresented STEM majors,” said Vaclav.

PUMA support services

“The PUMA Center was developed by caring staff and faculty guided by the principles of accessibility, responsiveness, transparency and collaboration. The center is also inclusive of students’ opinions and suggestions. Together, we create a warm and safe space for learning,” said Ocampo.

Services include:

  • Tutoring
  • Counseling
  • Free immigration legal consults
  • Community-building opportunities

PUMA programs

Puente Project

“Puente’s mission is to increase the number of Latinx students transferring to four-year colleges and universities. Their linked courses infuse Latinx literature and concepts into the curriculum,” said Ocampo.

Puente students have access to programs that support their academics, foster leadership and increase their engagement. Each participant is connected to a professional mentor who will provide support and assistance until they transfer.

For more information about the Puente Project, visit


UmojaUmoja is committed to the academic success, personal growth and self-actualization of African American and other students. African and African American intellectual, cultural, and spiritual gifts inform Umoja Community values, practices, and linked course curriculum.

Strong bonds with mentors, counselors, instructors, and peers are integral to Umoja, fostering deeper connections that support student growth and success.

For more information about Umoja, visit  


The Math, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program is a statewide program for educationally and economically underrepresented students focusing on science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).

“MESA offers a variety of supports for academic support such as tutoring and rapid review sessions. Students may also have access to high-demand courses and scholarships,” said Ocampo.

For more information about MESA, visit  

Making her voice heard

Mprah AsareMprah Asare is a member of the Umoja Community and really enjoys spending time in the PUMA Center.

“Among all services that Diablo Valley College offers, students of color and students who originate from underrepresented backgrounds can call the PUMA Center their own. This space caters to the unheard, overlooked and oftentimes ignored,” said Asare.

Asare herself has a unique connection to students who have felt unheard. “Growing up, I struggled with a speech impediment. With the help of my speech therapist, I was able to overcome this minor setback.”

Asare is majoring in psychology, and minoring in communication sciences and disorders. She plans to become a speech and language pathologist where she can help other children with similar issues. The time she has spent in the PUMA Center has helped build her confidence.

“As a student who is a member of Umoja, it has been a joy to form long-lasting connections with not only my peers, but also staff and faculty,” said Asare.

Paulina Vaclav plans to pursue a career in music education. She feels the PUMA Center has helped to pave her path.

“The PUMA Center staff really cares about your well-being and educational goals. They have helped me to see myself in my own culture,” said Vaclav. 

For more information about the PUMA Center, visit