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From college football player to visionary counselor

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Elliott Coney’s commitment to serving the African-American community is reshaping the campus

Opinions Editor, Asher Miles

Elliot R. Coney, Ed.D., is a counselor and coordinator for the Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC) Umoja Black Scholars Program. Photo taken at the Campus Center patio of LAVC in Los Angeles, Calif. on Tuesday October 24, 2023. (Jeremy Ruiz | Valley Star)

Elliott Coney’s ongoing journey throughout his career has led him to create a community of inclusion that extends beyond Valley College.

After earning his doctorate degree at San Diego State, Coney embarked on his journey at Valley as an adjunct professor in January 2018. The transition marked the culmination of his six-year pursuit of counseling special population groups, particularly within the African-American community.

“Before I got here, three counselors of the Black Scholars left within 2 months,” stated Dr. Coney. “A lot of that was because people didn’t feel we had enough to build a culture here. The African-American cohesion here was fragmented.”

After exploring the campus, he noticed black students congregating near the Behavioral Science building and began to engage with them. Over the course of a few months, he made the decision to apply for the available position as the coordinator/counselor for the Umoja Black Scholars program.

“My background and athletic history was key and I was able to connect me to the African-American community here. Students began to talk to me regularly and it created the visibility and the traffic.”

Nevertheless, as an influx of students gravitated towards the Mosaic Center, it became evident that accommodating the Veterans Program, The Dreamers and the Umoja Black scholars led to growing pains. The Mosaic Center, originally designed to host just one program, was now strained under the weight of three.

It became apparent that these programs required additional space and resources to survive.

Through student mobilization into attending community meetings and President Gribbon’s office hours, Coney led the students to demand their needs be met. Through a student and faculty-orchestrated push, the Umoja Program galvanized the community and moved into the Campus Center in the Spring of 2019.

“At that time other programs demanded better space and our move set in motion the Unity Center creation. Once we moved into this space it was bursting out of the seams with students.”

All of Dr. Coney’s contributions to LAVC are rooted in his upbringing, driven by a desire for the resource he wished he had within his own family.

“When you grow up in an area without much opportunity, you grow up with survivor's remorse,” the Doctor reflected. “My dad dropped out of school very early and it led him to not live the life he wanted, and he died early. It was a defining moment in my preteen years.”

Coney’s story at Valley can be defined by the relentless pursuit of a better future for scholars of the Umoja Program. His journey is far from over, as he continues to be a beacon of hope and inspiration.

Elliott Coney dressed in a beanie and colorful flannel, tall and jet-black bearded sits at his desk with his wife’s picture behind him. His office, decorated with his academic and personal achievements was purposefully placed, as a testament to what he was and where he is.


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