Southwestern Vets “Adopted” by CVHS Students
CHULA VISTA – Twenty ballerinas sit crossed-legged on the floor of Marla Navarrete’s high school dance classroom. The music the students twirled to just moments before is off. Their attention is now fixed on 29-year-old Christina Batiz, a Southwestern College student, and veteran of the Army National Guard.
Batiz told the high school students she joined the National Guard in her early 20s and served six years in the United States and on deployment in Afghanistan. During this time she was a military police officer, a Humvee turret-gunner and helped in the construction of a prison. Now a civilian, Batiz is attending Southwestern College through the G.I. Bill, she said. Currently a community urban economic development major at Southwestern, Batiz said she will be transferring to San Diego State University to major in sociology with a minor in communications.
Batiz was just one of the Southwestern College veterans who took part in “Bring a Veteran to School Day”—an annual Veteran’s Day celebration held by Chula Vista High School—on Thursday, Nov. 6. Veteran attendees were “adopted” by students and spent the day visiting classrooms and discussing military life with their new adoptive classmates.
Veterans were then honored at a “Patriotic Assembly” before an auditorium of students and local dignitaries, including outgoing Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox, Chula Vista City Council Member-elect John McCann and Sweetwater Union High School District Interim Superintendent Dr. Tim Glover.
Batiz said serving in the military as a female was not an issue. She was the only female Humvee turret gunner in her unit—a position that reduced grown men to tears, she said.
“You are afraid you are going to be the first one to die sitting on top of the Humvee,” she said.” I saw a lot of men cry.”
This motivated her to try her hardest.
“Because I am a hard-ass they gave (the position) to me. So I didn’t cry,” she said.
Navarrete, a dance instructor for Chula Vista School of Creative and Performing Arts, said it was nice to get the students engaged and asking questions because they are not exactly open books.
“You never know what the kids want to do, so it’s nice to get their input and (have them) ask questions because you never know what they are interested in,” Navarrete said.
She said it was especially nice to have a female veteran speak to her classroom comprised entirely of young women.
“It’s a good connection. A lot of times with military women, when you hear (they served) it’s motivating,” Navarrete said.
World history teacher Diana Kulhanek, who organizes the yearly event, said “Bring a Veteran to School Day” is about education. It’s vital to teach students the meaning of Veterans’ Day, she said, and this event puts a face on the holiday.
“It’s important for the students to understand the meaning of Veterans’ Day, the meaning and the connection they have with those who have served with our military and those who are currently serving with our military and also to connect real-life experiences with the textbook,” she said. “That’s the whole purpose of today’s event.”
UNIFORMS AND LEOTARDS – Community urban development major Christina Batiz, 29, talks to and answers questions from students of Marla Navarrette’s level 19 dance class at Chula Vista High School.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT – Batiz answers questions from Chula Vista School for Creative and Performing students.