The Citizen is the student-run publication of the Peralta Community College District. Our mission is to amplify community voices while holding those in power accountable. We foster the growth of student journalists while giving full representation to our complex and diverse community. We provide current, balanced reporting — rooted in truth and clarity.
We are reclaiming the word “citizen” to be inclusive of ALL Peralta Community College community members. At the same time, we embrace all of the differences that make us unique.
Our publication is made up of staff who are enrolled in our Journalism 18 course, News Production.
For more information – or if you are wondering if journalism is a right fit for you – don’t hesitate to contact department chair Eleni Gastis at email@example.com
Copyright and permissions: By signing up for this class, the student grants The Citizen permission in perpetuity to use material produced for this class in print, on its website, in social media or to promote the student news media or the journalism program. This includes material created for this class but not published during the course of the semester. Unless the editor-in-chief consents, all material produced for this class will appear in The Citizen before any other publication. Students retain copyright to their work and the right to sell their work after it has appeared in The Citizen or, in the case of unpublished material, after the end of the semester.
News Tips: Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a story tip.
Corrections: The Citizen makes prompt corrections of factual errors. If you would like to submit a factual correction for review, please email email@example.com. Please provide any evidence you have in the email including a link to the story you think needs a factual correction.
Eleni Economides Gastis
Citizen Advisor and Journalism Department Chair
Eleni Economides Gastis’ journey began at Laney College. She transferred to San Francisco State University in 2004, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism and International Relations. After working for a few years as a reporter for the Bay Area News Group and the San Francisco Examiner—where she covered local governments, culture and crime—Eleni returned to San Francisco State University for a master’s in English Composition and a Certificate in Teaching Postsecondary Reading.
Eleni started teaching at Laney College as adjunct faculty in 2011 and got her dream full-time position there in 2015. Initially serving as English faculty and co-chair of the English department, Eleni became journalism department chair and took over Peralta’s only student-run publication, The Laney Tower, in August 2019. She embarked on a full-scale rebranding of what would become The Citizen, successfully revitalizing the department to increase enrollment, form a top-notch advisory committee, overhaul curriculum to mirror industry demand and remodel the journalism lab to become an inviting space for students.
In addition to her work in the journalism and English departments, she currently serves as the Laney College Academic Senate President and is the co-coordinator for the college’s Guided Pathways initiative. Eleni is passionate about teaching students to advocate for themselves and their communities through writing. She believes every student should be supported and uplifted during the learning process, and shudders when she thinks about students who aren’t. When she isn’t at Laney, she enjoys spending time in Greece with her family and nerding out about all things journalism.
Journalism students harness the true power of democracy, rooted in free speech and the landmark protections of Tinker vs. Des Moines, as they afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.
You can reach Eleni Economides Gastis at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor in Chief
Shiloh Johnston is a Bay Area native currently working towards a degree in Political Science with the hopes of starting an illustrious career as a poorly paid academic. His interest in both politics and journalism is rooted in the desire to understand why people believe what they believe. He thinks that in this deeper understanding we can find common ground and work towards solving our country’s greatest problems. When he’s not working as an election administrator or taking classes, Shiloh enjoys writing fiction, watching pretentious films, and making music. Shiloh joined the journalism department at Laney in the hopes that a familiarity with news production would assist him in his long term goals. And who knows? If the illustrious career as a poorly paid academic doesn’t work out, he might become a reporter.
Ken Lester is an avid enjoyer of life. When you can’t find him in the upper deck at the Coliseum watching the green and gold bash homeruns, with peanuts and crackerjack in hand, you might try one of the other local sports venues. If he is still lost, check the parks (themed or not), where he can often be found with his camera capturing beauty as he sees it, or the local restaurants – bonus points if they have a reuben sandwich on the menu. If all else fails look no further than on his couch at home, where you will often find him adorned in a snuggie with his border collie Indiana draped across his lap, perhaps reading Lord of the Rings, or maybe just watching the movies again — for the hundredth time.
An East Bay native, Ryan is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and holds degrees in Literature and Feminist Studies. During the early months of the pandemic, they went for a month-long backpacking trek across the high sierras, beginning in Happy Isles Yosemite and ending on Mt. Whitney. When not climbing mountains, Ryan enjoys free audiobooks from the local library and listening to KQED. Their preference in media is for social justice oriented topics that reflect their engagement with creating equity and inclusive environments. Ryan brings a unique perspective and critical eye to everything they do, especially with regard to dismantling colonial legacies and reimagining the boundaries of an intersectional world.
Randi Cross was born in Oakland, California at Highland Hospital. She spent most of her childhood living in Clearlake, California with her great grandparents. Randi has always been an “old soul” after spending most of her childhood with her great grandparents and being the only child in the house. She became a lover of reading and writing fiction since she was only allowed to watch one hour of TV a day. Her one hour of TV did not include the morning, evening, and nightly news so she was always well informed. After moving back to Oakland in high school, Randi became addicted to pop culture. When blogging became popular, she spent her free time keeping up with celebrity news and even started a blog of her own. After high school she went to Contra Costa College and got her certificate in early childhood education. Shortly after working with children, she realized it was not a career she wanted to pursue and got a job at 18 years old at an insurance company in Concord, California. Twenty-one years later, she still works at the same insurance company! Fifteen of those years were spent as the receptionist who always had the “tea”. After turning 40 this year she realized her passion has and will always be for reporting, reading, and writing. This is Randi’s first semester at Laney College in hopes of pursuing an AA-T in Journalism, ultimately transferring to San Francisco State University to get her bachelor’s degree. Writing a fiction book is also one of her goals in life. “If you find a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
Nebai Esaias is currently a sophomore at Merritt College, but also takes multiple classes at Laney College this semester. His freshman year in college started in 2021 where he took classes fully online, but his major was undeclared. Nebai decided to pursue journalism as his major because of his long lasting passion for sports. Nebai enjoys playing and watching sports with his friends and family, and believes that he can have a successful career pursuing journalism. His goal is to one day become a sports journalist.
Robert Gerstle is a Bay Area native born in Oakland who was given up for adoption at birth. He was a subject of an interracial adoption. He finally met his biological family 18,583 days later — after 50 years. He has lived in several different regions in California through the years. Robet enjoys sports, reading and current events. When he’s not at work — at the world’s first fine mycelium plant — you can catch him binging on Netflix. Robert always had a thing for journalism that began with a field trip to KRON during elementary school.
Jillian Jones Grant
Jillian Jones Grant was born and raised in East Oakland, CA. She is RBT, LMT and is majoring in journalism. She is the property of October! Jillian is a bold, blunt, and beautiful Scorpio and single mother. She loves to cook, write poetry, and listen to music. She has always wanted to write and bring facts and knowledge to her peers and others. Catch her on campus or around town jamming with her headphones, dancing, writing, and last but not least, munching on her snacks!
Social Media Editor
Emily Tenorio Molina
Emily is a recent Cal graduate who is eager to begin a career in journalism. During her undergrad, Emily wrote stories on Bay Area activists, social movement groups, and the importance of community engagement. Some of her interests lie in healthcare, financial equity, social activism, and breakthrough technology. In her free time, Emily enjoys walking through the picturesque streets of the Bay, learning about new fusion foods, and driving at night.
Luke Wrin Piper
Luke Wrin Piper began writing for The Citizen in 2019. Starting at the sports desk, his focus has expanded into politics, art, activism, crime and the all ways they intersect here in the 510. The people and culture of the East Bay have never failed to fascinate him and he hopes to bottle that local lightning for The Citizen. He thinks there’s never been a better time to be alive, especially for journalists.
Leo Premnath-Ray is a current Peralta freshman. He finished high school three days before he took his first college class and spent that last weekend taking part in his two favorite activities: re-reading one of his favorite books (in this case, ‘In Sensorium’ by Tanaïs) and panic-sewing. As someone who grew up in Berkeley, he is very grateful for the rich community history within the Bay Area. He is interested in exploring the political aspect of that history and how it interacts with the present.
After a 40 year career in advertising, David is considering journalism as his “second act” and preparing himself for that new profession by taking classes at Laney. During his days in advertising, Rowe headed up the media departments for a number of leading ad agencies in San Francisco and Salt Lake City. In this capacity, he was responsible for the planning and placement of tens of millions of dollars of paid media. A high point of his career was placing Intel’s first Super Bowl TV ad in 1997. Rowe has a lifelong interest in journalism dating back to high school in San Jose where he started an underground newspaper called, appropriately enough, The Del Mar Free Press. The school administration threatened to suspend him, so Rowe, with the help of his attorney father, sued the school district in Federal Court and won and injunction. Ultimately, the case was decided in his favor and California state law regarding the rights of high school students was re-written as a result. Rowe is a political junkie who enjoys watching all the Sunday morning news programs and is actively involved in the Joe Biden presidential campaign this year.
This is Pamela Rudd’s forth semester at Laney College and her third as a staff writer for The Citizen. Pam was born in San Francisco and grew up in Contra Costa County when cattle roamed the hills and life had yet to cross from rural to suburban. She attended college directly after high school and received a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in psychology. As a Bay Area native she witnessed the the Vietnam War, the Free Speech and Black Panther movements, the AIDS crisis, and the birth of Silicon Valley. Pamela is always amazed by the resiliency of the human spirit and the repetitiveness of history. She is excited to be back in school and to be part of The Citizen’s newsroom. For Pam, journalism was the path not taken..
Gretchen Zimmerman settled in Vallejo, CA in 2002 after spending a couple of decades bouncing around the inner San Francisco Bay area. Before her move to Vallejo, she had lived for no more than couple of years in one place. Her recent stability has facilitated a greater involvement in her community. She became active in local arts groups first, volunteering with Vallejo Open Studios and Vallejo Art Walk. As she got to know more people and their circumstances, her interests broadened into local politics. She started attending City Council meetings, writing to the local paper, and engaging in serious debates on social media. That wasn’t enough for her. Gretchen decided to get serious about writing and study journalism so that she can delve into meaningful investigative work.
Leticia is a Brazilian living in the Bay Area. Her interests range from environment to education, and living abroad since 2013 has given her the opportunity to explore and learn about many cultures — so her interest in cultural diversity has only grown. In Brazil, she has taught English and studied education, now she is pursuing an English degree and hopes to continue learning and exploring the world. Her belief in communicating the truth has led her to this journalism class. Leti is also a National Parks enthusiast and loves to use her camera to photograph landscapes and wildlife. On her off time, you can find Leti on hiking trails around the Bay Area or on long road trips with her friends.
Saskia was born in Oakland with her little brother, to an American mother and a British father. Just before she turned seven, her family spontaneously relocated to a quiet village in rural France, where she would spend the majority of her childhood in nature and discovering art through photography and books. When she was 15, she relocated to an international boarding school where she graduated with honors and a bilingual diploma, and immediately left home to fulfill her dream of traveling. She picked strawberries and apples in Australian farms, lived in a van for a while, taught English in Cambodia, and returned home two years later with many stories to tell. Knowing that she had always wanted to return to the Bay Area, she did just that —once again leaving friends and family thousands of miles away. During this period of uncertainty, she enrolled at Peralta Colleges and eventually began taking journalism classes, where — upon encouragement from her professors — she began writing for the student newspaper. Currently Saskia is applying for transfer and works as a freelance journalist, photographer, writer and graphic designer for California news outlets, non-profits, and local businesses in the greater Bay Area. She hopes to graduate in 2021.
Michelle Dione Snider
Michelle Snider is the Editor-in-Chief of The Citizen and has been an editor for three of the four semesters she has attended at Laney College. Best known for going viral filming “BBQ Becky” at Lake Merritt during her first semester, Michelle aspires to break into a new modern world of multimedia journalism. Dabbling in photojournalism, article writing, social media reporting, and film, Michelle has learned how to use different mediums to tell everyday stories. In 2017, Michelle was concerned about violent rallies breaking out in Berkeley, CA and went to document what she felt would one day be political history. When she learned what she was doing was considered journalism, she was inspired to go back to school to get a journalism degree. She later sold some of her Berkeley footage to a PBS Frontline documentary called “Documenting Hate.” At 42-years old, after raising 20-year-old twins, Michelle is ready to start a new life informing the local community and the world about the events around her. After all, journalism is the first draft of history.
Editor in Chief 2019-2020
Editor-in-Chief Isis Piccillo was born and raised in the Bay Area. An avid reader and lover of libraries, Piccillo knows reading has been key to developing their writing voice. They are invested in covering and amplifying the voices of marginalized and underrepresented groups, especially in the areas of health and science. When not frantically copyediting or furiously writing, Isis can be found on the soccer field, or with food.More by Isis Piccillo
Editor in Chief Fall 2020
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Jacquelyn Opalach is a student reporter who has been pursuing journalism since she was 15. Opalach is particularly passionate about the safety net that journalism provides for small communities, and is interested in the intersection of ethical reporting and investigative journalism. When she isn’t scoping out a new story, Opalach is likely sampling out a new recipe in the kitchen, forever trying to satisfy her insatiable sweet tooth.
Editor in Chief Spring 2021
Ryan B. is an Oakland native who is following his passion of writing. It has led to his desire to expand his knowledge and insight in this profession by learning and sharing with others. Ryan attended primary and secondary schools in Oakland and has ties to various community outreach programs throughout the East Bay. Indebted to the teachers that have supported him throughout his scholarly journey, Ryan desires to pursue a career that will allow him to positively impact the world around him.