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Removing Barriers to Expand the Ranks of EMTs and Diversify EMS

Group of AMR EMT students participating in an ‘Earn While You Learn’ program, proudly standing in front of the Public Safety Training Center at Southwestern College Higher Education Center in Otay Mesa alongside Southwestern College leaders.

Cities across America—including some in the San Diego region—often face a shortage of qualified emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to serve their communities.

The reality is that barriers for entry into the field of emergency medical services are often too high. The amount of student debt required to achieve their dreams can deter even those who are passionate about health care and helping people in need. 

On average, local EMTs assume hundreds of dollars in debt to achieve the 250 credit hours required for most EMT programs in California. Is it any wonder that potential EMTs may—saddled with the possibility of debt—choose to enter careers straight out of high school that promises less of an upfront investment? 

Two AMR EMT students, Judith Ramirez (left) and Ariana Alvarez (right) from the ‘Earn While You Learn’ program proudly pose in front of the Southwestern College ambulance.

The industry also lacks diversity. It is predominantly white and male. Nationally, only 13% of emergency responders are Latino, only 6.6% are Black and only 35% are women. Here in the South Bay area of San Diego County, the population is 16% white, 60% Hispanic or Latino, 18% two or more races, 5.1% Black or African American, and 0.4% Asian American/Pacific Islander, according to the latest Census data.

The Southwestern College EMT and Paramedic programs continually strive to identify and break down systemic educational barriers and recruit students to increase diversity in the field of emergency medical services to better represent the community we serve and provide quality prehospital care.

To remove one of the main barriers for aspiring EMTs – debt – Southwestern College and American Medical Response (AMR) recently teamed up to create the Earn While You Learn program. Through this initiative, AMR will pay for the cost of each participant’s tuition, and also will pay them a salary and provide healthcare and other benefits.  

Three AMR EMT students from the ‘Earn While You Learn’ program engaged in hands-on training within the virtual reality classroom at Southwestern College Higher Education Center in Otay Mesa.

Students involved in the program don’t just learn the skills necessary to perform their duties. They will also become—throughout the course of their education— employees of AMR, and will have their textbooks and other supplies covered while enrolled.

While studying part-time at Southwestern College, student employees will not only respond to real emergencies, but can also shadow different departments at AMR. This is crucial. A classroom can’t always give students a clear picture of the stresses and day-to-day experiences that come with a life as an EMT. The more we’re able to give students exposure to life on the job, the more prepared they will be for their future careers.

Their employment, crucially, does not end at graduation. Graduates are guaranteed jobs at AMR, saving graduates the need to pivot quickly into the job hunt right after graduation. 

AMR EMT student demonstrating stretcher lifting techniques while under observation by fellow participants of the ‘Earn While You Learn’ program.

It’s this type of security that not only brings us closer to attracting more EMTs to enter our field, but even has the potential to close equity gaps. In this first cohort, seven of our 11 graduates are women. Many students in the cohort identify as Latino or Hispanic as well. 

More EMTs of diverse backgrounds not only mean more people available to meet our region’s needs for qualified EMTs, but also could ease a long-known equity gap: the patient experience. Studies indicate that racial and gender bias can affect the quality of care that patients receive. When providers represent the communities they serve, especially a racially diverse community like southern San Diego County, this minimizes the chances patients will receive inadequate care based on stereotypes or misrepresentations about their needs.

It’s clear to us: when we offer students everything they will need to be successful, we not only increase the number of qualified EMTs across our region, but can also reduce the inequities present when we stick to the status quo. 

Our current cohort of “Earn As You Learn” students will graduate in May 2023. With more cohorts to come, the future is looking bright for EMT professionals across our region. 

Jason Hums is the director of the EMT & Paramedic programs at Southwestern College. Claudia Rempel is the government & community affairs manager and operations manager for AMR.

Business Development Centers Earn National and Regional Awards

WBC and SBDC directors celebrate regional and national recognitions. L-R Congressman Juan Vargas, SWC Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez, WBC Director Katty Ibarra, SBDC Network Director Daniel Fitzgerald, SBA Director Ruben Garcia and SWC Assistant Vice President Chris Perri.

As National Small Business Week wraps up, the San Diego & Imperial Women’s Business Center and San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center Network celebrated their recent national and regional awards for excellence.

At a news conference Friday, Women’s Business Center (WBC) Director Katty Ibarra showed off the crystal award she received at the White House last week. Ibarra and the Center were recognized as the national Women’s Business Center of Excellence.

“I work with a team who use their heart and soul to help women succeed,” Ibarra said.

In the five short years, Ibarra and her team have specialized in helping Spanish-speaking women start and grow their in-home child care businesses. In total, over the last three years the WBC has provided assistance via counseling and training to 3,138 businesses, helped 160 new businesses start and helped 294 businesses access capital to grow their businesses.

“Katty has built the program to now be a leader in helping women entrepreneurs start businesses and help women business owners improve their confidence and entrepreneurial mindset,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, director of the San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network.

Fitzgerald and his team also celebrated their recognition as the western region (Region IX) Small Business Development Center of Excellence and Innovation.

Rep. Juan Vargas attended the news conference to congratulate Ibarra and Fitzgerald.

“There are more Americans starting businesses than ever before,” Vargas said. “Small businesses make money for our country because of all the hard work of the people who are here.”

Congressman Juan Vargars and WBC Director Katty Ibarra
Congressman Juan Vargas presents WBC Director Katty Ibarra a special certificate of recognition for the center’s recent naming as the national Women’s Business Center of Excellence.

The San Diego & Imperial SBDC Network was recognized as the Center of Excellence and Innovation for the four-state region of California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii. Over the last three years it has assisted 12,859 businesses, supported the start up of 707 new businesses, helped businesses obtain $343 million in government contracts and access $1.41 billion in capital.

“We are helping business owners achieve the generational wealth they didn’t have in their lives,” Fitzgerald said.

Congressman Juan Vargas and SBDC Director Daniel Fitzgerald
Congressman Juan Vargas presents SBDC Network Director a special certificate in recognition of the network’s recent recognition as a center of excellence and innovation.

Dr. Mark Sanchez, superintendent/president of Southwestern College, where the WBC, SBDC and the Apex Accelerator are housed, expressed pride and admiration for the work of the business developers.

“It is part of Southwestern College’s mission to support and grow our local economy,” Sanchez said. “The recognition being received by the SBDC and WBC is well deserved.”

Southwestern College’s Dreamer Center Celebrates 5-year Anniversary

Dr. Guadalupe Corona, Office of Student Equity Programs and Services Director; Alejandra Garcia, Dreamer Center coordinator; and two Dreamer Center students at Southwestern College.
Dr. Guadalupe Corona, Office of Student Equity Programs and Services Director; Alejandra Garcia, Dreamer Center coordinator; and two Dreamer Center students at Southwestern College.

The Southwestern College’s Dreamer Center is celebrating its five-year anniversary. The program was established to help students navigate the challenges of attending college as undocumented students by providing essential services, like assisting with the admissions process and financial aid options, including scholarship workshops. Academic counseling and priority registration to ensure that students receive the resources they need to succeed in their studies are also provided. In addition, the center offers fellowship and paid volunteer opportunities to help students gain real-world experience and build their resumes. 

The Office of Student Equity Programs and Services Director, Dr. Guadalupe Corona, oversees the Dreamer Center with one full-time employee, Alejandra Garcia, who serves as its coordinator, who has been instrumental in the success of the program. The team provides critical services to students and builds strong relationships with the campus community.

“We started our first year by looking at our processes and procedures, especially at the admissions process,” said Corona. “Over the last few years, we have been aligning these needs, to make sure we work with each department to see what we can do to support undocumented students’ experience.”

The Dreamer Center hosts events to help undocumented students feel included in the campus community. These events provide opportunities for students to connect with other undocumented students, learn about resources, and build a sense of belonging. Additionally, the program offers free legal immigration services to assist with the complex and often confusing process of obtaining legal status.

The program has awarded $122,250 through direct student aid, grants, scholarships, books, supplies, and technology. The program has made a significant impact in the lives of many undocumented students who might not have had the opportunity to attend college without its support. 

“One of the things we have worked throughout the years is ensuring that we have paid fellowships, internships with stipends,” said Garcia. “We have navigated the ways that we can support students outside of just grants.”

Since its launch, the program has served over 950 students. 

The Southwestern College Dreamer Center has made a significant impact in the lives of undocumented students in our community, and it is looking to expand its services and help all those who need assistance. The Dreamer Center’s achievements over the past five years demonstrates its effectiveness and importance in promoting access to education for all students, regardless of their immigration status.

The Dreamer Center will be celebrating its five-year anniversary this Thursday, April 27, at the Chula Vista campus, in room 26-120, from 12 to 1:30 p.m. All are welcome to join and learn more about their services.

Dr. Guadalupe Corona, Office of Student Equity Programs and Services Director
Dr. Guadalupe Corona, Office of Student Equity Programs and Services Director
Alejandra Garcia, Dreamer Center Coordinator, in front of campus building.
Alejandra Garcia, Dreamer Center Coordinator, in front of campus building.

California Governor Gavin Newsom appoints Mary Salas to the California Community College Board of Governors

Former Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas inside Chula Vista City Hall.
Mary Salas headshot in front of City of Chula Vista

For the first time in history, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors will have a representative from the Southwestern College attendance area.

Former state Assemblywoman and former Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month to serve on the 17-member board.

“I am honored to be appointed to such a critical board that serves the most students then any other public higher education system,” Mary Salas states. “It’s even more meaningful to me because community college is where I started my higher education journey.”

The Board of Governors provides policy decisions for the 116-California Community College system. With more than 1.8 million students enrolled, the California Community Colleges system is the largest system of higher education in the nation.

In addition to Salas, Newsom appointed two other new trustees and reappointed a third.

“The leadership, experience, perspectives and insights of this group will be of great value to our system and the lives of our students, their families and communities,” said Interim Chancellor Dr. Daisy Gonzales. “We will work closely to continue to build on the work we’re doing to advance equity and student success across our system and build a culture of unconditional belonging for every student.”

Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez applauded the appointment of Salas.

Former Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas receiving the Alumni Achievement Award at the Southwestern College Foundation Luncheon 2022.
Former Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas with Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez and Foundation Executive Director Sofia Salgado Robitaille.

“In Trustee Salas we have a passionate advocate for community colleges and for our region,” Sanchez said. “She understands our students’ journeys and she will be able to bring that perspective to her colleagues on the board.”

Salas served as the Mayor of Chula Vista from 2014 to 2022; served on the City Council from 2012 to 2014; served as a California State Assemblymember from 2006 to 2010; was a corporate communications coordinator for Community Health Group from 2001 to 2004; and an economic development specialist at the California Trade and Commerce Agency from 1994 to 2001.

As a graduate of Southwestern College, Salas credits much of her career trajectory on the confidence earned through her time at the college.

Salas, like many of the students who attend Southwestern College, was at a tremendous turning point in her life. At 37, Salas found herself divorced with two daughters to care for. She was forced to redefine herself after 17 years of marriage, most of which she spent as a stay-at-home mother with a few part-time retail and banking jobs along the way.

Salas enrolled at Southwestern College and picked tough professors who she knew would challenge her. She finished her requirements quickly and graduated with honors before transferring to San Diego State, where she would graduate magna cum laude with a degree in social work in 1989.

“With every little success I gained more confidence in myself,” she said. “Getting an education and seeing the successes that you build for yourself allows you to take further steps and to challenge yourself more.”

Even without the personal connection Salas has with Southwestern College, she said she is grateful for how the college enriches the community she serves, including providing opportunities for students who are looking to transfer to a four-year university and for community members looking to develop their personal skills.

“Southwestern College was there for me and it’s there for whoever wants to access it,” Salas said. “You will never be stuck if you want to do something more with your life because you’ll always have Southwestern College.”

Southwestern College Students Embark on East Coast Trip

Southwestern College students on Historically Black Colleges and Universities Tour
Southwestern College students on Historically Black Colleges and Universities Tour.

Nine students went on a life-altering trip to tour Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) recently. 

Led by Professors Dr. Louis Wright and Brother Shabazz, the students visited Virginia State University, Morgan State University, Norfolk State University, Lincoln University, Bowie State University, Hampton University and Howard University over spring break.. 

“It was really an amazing experience for our students,” said Prof. Wright. “The level of prestige and the networking from that particular experience, it has caused many of the students to reconsider what they want to do.” 

Nefertari Deschamps, a psychology major, was one of the fortunate students to attend the trip.

“I got to meet judges who served under seven presidents,” Deschamps said. “I’ve gotten to meet accomplished lawyers, business women, entrepreneurs, African-American people from all over the world. I had a great experience overall.”

For Trinity Johnson, an art and studio major, the HBCU trip was extremely inspiring. 

“I loved it,” she said. “As a Black young adult, I have never been surrounded by as much Black education. It was not only historical, it was very modern, very progressive. It allowed me to believe that there was so much Black excellence in America that I never knew about.”  

In 2021, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office awarded a five-year grant that supports the continuation of the HBCU Transfer Agreement Project. This grant’s overarching objective is to provide for additional transfer pathways and improved outcomes for Black/African American students, and is closely aligned with the Board of Governors adopted Vision for Success goals to increase transfer and reduce equity gaps.

Wright said the trip has made lasting impressions.

“Our students are getting a plethora of knowledge by being at Southwestern College,” Wright said. “And hopefully they can take that into spaces where we are few in those areas, and spread the love about Black excellence.”

Students listening to speaker during a campus tour visit.
Students listening to speaker during a campus tour visit.
Students continuing campus tour, during their 5-day Historically Black Colleges and Universities visit.
Students continuing campus tour, during their 5-day Historically Black Colleges and Universities visit.
Professors Dr. Louis Wright and Brother Kwane Shabazz during trip.
Professors Dr. Louis Wright and Brother Shabazz during trip.

Southwestern College Students Successfully Participated in Regional Theater Festival

Professor and students posing for picture with Las Vegas Strip in the background.
Southwestern College students, along with Prof. Ruff Yeager, gather on the Las Vegas Strip.

Student performances in this semester’s production of “James and the Giant Peach” are getting a little help from lessons learned in a Las Vegas theater festival.

Six students–five of whom are starring in the “James” production–attended the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival 55 – Region 8 in Las Vegas, Nevada, in February. Accompanied by Prof. Ruff Yeager, the students learned much and racked in some awards.

Kevin Stevens, majoring in communications, was nominated to attend the festival for his performances in the 2022 play “Frankenstein Project,” where he performed three roles: Henry Clerval, Dr. Blanchard and Smith.  

“It was a really great event,” Steven said, adding that he was able to meet many people and see a lot of shows.

“At the Irene Ryan (scholarship competition), we got to see a bunch of people showcasing their own work,” he said. 

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival 55 – Region 8 returned to an in-person format after being offered online the last two years. The festival included colleges and universities from Arizona, Central and Southern California, Guam, Hawaii, Southern Nevada and Utah. 

Southwestern College participated in the festival after a five-year hiatus and this is the first time in Yeager’s tenure that students advanced to the semifinals or final round of the Irene Ryan Scholarship Competition. Four of Southwestern College’s six participants advanced to the semifinals and two advanced to the final round.

Jacob-Adam Lopez, a dual-enrollment student who is fairly new to theater, was invited to the festival for his performance in “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.” Fellow students Annabelle Ramos and Santiago Gordillo were also invited to the festival because of their roles in the same production. All three advanced to the semi-final round of the Irene Ryan Scholarship Auditions. 

“It was a great experience to just go and be educated on what theater is,” Lopez said. “It was a lot of work. It was stressful, but I enjoyed it.”  

Southwestern College Theater student Ina Lelevier, who advanced to the musical theater finals at the festival, expressed her gratitude to Yeager and the theater department. 

“He’s, like, the best director I have ever worked with,” Lelevier said. “He’s so kind and patient. And he truly cares about his students. Because of that, I have grown so much as an artist. And the whole theater department, as a whole, is just very supportive here.”

Yeager expressed the importance and benefits attending the festival gives students. 

By attending the KCACTF Region 8 festival, our theatre arts students have the opportunity to gain performance experience, develop their craft through guided practice, expand their knowledge of the art form by attending workshops and build their self confidence,” Yeager said.

“James and the Giant Peach” runs through March 25 at the Performing Arts Center.. For event dates and times, visit James And The Giant Peach Tickets, Multiple Dates | Eventbrite

Students lifting fellow student, in celebratory form.
Southwestern College Prof. Ruff Yeager and students celebrate their participation on theater festival.
Students smiling into the camera, with flowers in hand.
Southwestern College Theater students are “all smiles” after participating in regional theater festival.

Southwestern College Breaks Ground on $101 Million Student Union

folks with shovels in hand to turn dirt as part of groundbreaking
Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez and Governing Board President Roberto Alcantar (center) are joined by students, cheerleaders and Johnny Jaguar to turn the dirt for Student Union groundbreaking.

Southwestern College Governing Board members, leadership, students and contractors broke ground recently on the district’s newest construction project–a $101 million Student Union.

The string of rainy days stopped briefly and the sun shone as nearly 100 students, college employees and community members gathered for the Monday event.

“I have to admit I was nostalgic when we took down the cafeteria, as I spent more time playing dominoes there than studying,” said Southwestern’s Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez. “But we are transforming Southwestern College physically and academically.

“Proposition Z is a testament to the pride and investment our community has in our college,” Sanchez said. “We understand that investment, and we take it seriously.”

The Student Union will become the new hub of student life. It will house a new cafeteria, bookstore and office spaces for the Veterans’ Resource Center, Learning Communities, the SWC Cares Hub (which includes the Jag Kitchen Food Pantry and Cares Closet). Also included is space for Personal Wellness, the Culinary Arts program and meeting spaces for the Associated Student Organization (ASO).

Within the two-story building, which is located in the center of the Chula Vista campus, will be ballroom space and outdoor eating areas, allowing community members to also gather.

“It has been the vision of our Governing Board to give the community a facility it truly deserves,” said Governing Board President Roberto Alcantar.

gif of students and Johnny Jaguar tossing dirt from Student Union groundbreaking.
Associated Students Organization members, cheerleaders and Johnny Jaguar take their turn in tossing dirt for Student Union groundbreaking.

ASO President Imani Drew understands the importance of a central gathering place for students.

“The Student Union is an amazing place to hang out after class and to bond with each other,” Drew said. “Please know that your investment in us means that we will go forth into our community and leave our marks for good.”

The Student Union is scheduled to be completed in the winter of 2024. The building was designed by Gensler and the construction manager is Balfour Beatty Construction.

College leaders and contractors take turns shoveling dirt for groundbreaking.
College leaders, members of IBEW Local 569 and Balfour Beatty Construction, which both helped underwrite the event, participate in Student Union groundbreaking.
Southwestern College's construction program management team pose at groundbreaking
Members of the Propositions R/Z construction program management team pose with Johnny Jaguar at Student Union groundbreaking.

Southwestern College Professor discusses ‘Reparations for Black Americans’

Professor Shabazz giving lecture
Professor Shabazz giving lecture on reparations to Black Americans.

Ever since the time of President Abraham Lincoln, there have been laws to marginalize Black people in the United States, says Southwestern College Assistant Professor Kwame Shabazz, better known as Brother Shabazz. The time is right for the people to rise up to demand reparations, he said.

Shabazz said education would be the vehicle to make progress.

“But a lot of us don’t know enough about the details to make it happen,” he said. “So it has to be education. That’s why I am here, that’s what I do. That’s what many of us do, we are trying to get enough people involved and engaged to make a push, to force these politicians to do something about applying it to Black people.” 

Shabazz held the ‘Reparations for Black Americans’ workshop Feb. 16 as part of a series of events scheduled to celebrate Black History Month. The discourse examined the history of black people in America, from slavery to present day, the laws that have been created through time to marginalize black people in the United States, and why there is a growing movement to make reparations to Black Americans. 

Shabazz provided historical information from the days of slavery to the Constitution’s 13th Amendment which abolished slavery. He brought the history lesson to more modern times with the reparation movement of the late 1950’s under Queen Mother Moore, an American activist and civil-rights leader. Movement leaders claimed the United States government allowed the marginalization of black Americans with Jim Crow laws, and many other actions. 

The movement and claims for justice for black Americans is for the government to create a program that specifically targets them. The struggle, Shabazz said, is that public servants consider it “political suicide.”  

“It has to be people from the bottom, demanding and pushing politicians,” Shabazz said.  “Politicians don’t do anything until you demand it. So, it has to be something from the grass-roots level.” 

The talk was one of several lectures and events presented throughout February as part of Black History Month. The events were sponsored by the Office of Student Equity Programs, SWC Pride and Umoja community. 

ASM Alvarez Introduces Bi-National Tuition Exemption Pilot Program for Local Community Colleges

Exterior of U.S. Customs and Border Protection building in San Ysidro
Assembly Bill 91 will expand educational opportunities for Baja California students and increase our regional workforce.

Assemblymember David Alvarez (D-San Diego) has introduced his first bill, Assembly Bill 91 (AB 91), which will allow low-income students who reside within 45 miles from the California-Mexico border to attend local community colleges.

“We live in a dynamic border region where we need to educate more students to fill the jobs required for growth” said Assemblymember Alvarez. “This bill will allow low-income residents who live close to the border to attend local community colleges.”

According to the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, San Diego must double the amount of people with post-secondary education by 2030 to meet the demands of the local economy. That equates to approximately 20,000 new skilled workers each year.

“Southwestern College is the cornerstone for affordable and accessible higher education opportunities in the South County” said Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez. “Expanding affordable access to low-income, binational students will make a significant contribution to our region’s binational workforce and economy.”

If approved, students would be able to attend community colleges at the in-state tuition rate of $46 per unit. The tuition for international students at Southwestern College is $291 per unit.

AB 91 is supported by the San Diego and Imperial Valley Counties Community College Association (SDICCCA), which includes Southwestern College.

Other Media Coverage

Alvarez and Sanchez co-wrote an opinion piece for the San Diego Union-Tribune that ran Feb. 2. It outlined the benefits to the Cali-Baja economy.

The Los Angeles Times highlighted Southwestern College student Abril Hernandez in its Feb. 6 story on the proposed legislation.

Follow the link to track the bill through the legislative process.

Three Southwestern College Governing Board Members Sworn In

collage of 3 governing board members taking oath of office
Governing Board members taking oath of office: (L – R) Don Dumas, Corina Soto, Robert Moreno.

New Governing Board members Robert Moreno and Corina Soto joined returning Board Member Don Dumas in a swearing-in ceremony last night.

In the first trustee area election for the college, each board member now lives within the community they represent. Moreno represents area 1 which includes National City and northern parts of Chula Vista. Soto represents area 4 which includes large portions of Chula Vista east of Interstate 805 and south into Otay Mesa and to the eastern portion of the district. Dumas represents area 5 which includes the northeastern portion of Chula Vista, including the area west of the Otay Lakes.

Each expressed appreciation for the opportunity to serve on the Southwestern College Governing Board.

“I am so thankful and happy to be elected by the South County community,” Soto said. “I hope I am able to do an honorable and honest job.”

Moreno was as gracious.

“I want to thank the voters of National City for trusting me and placing me here,” Moreno said. “I want to do great things.”

Dumas begins serving his first full term and expressed gratitude to his outgoing governing board members Leticia Cazares and Kirin Macapugay for giving him the confidence to continue.

“I am grateful that you all showed me it was okay to tell my story and advocate for my community,” Dumas said.

Moreno, who works for the Better Business Bureau, received his associate’s degree in journalism from Southwestern College before receiving his bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Diego State University. He was a long-time general assignment reporter for the Star-News.

Soto retires as a counselor from Southwestern College to transition to her role on the governing board. A 32-year employee with the college, Soto also is a product of the California community college system.

Dumas was appointed in February 2021. He is a teacher at Bonita Vista High School and also serves as the school’s boys’ varsity basketball head coach. Dumas was a Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College student before earning his bachelor’s degree in history and masters in teaching, both from San Diego State University.

Retiring Board Members

2 governing board members holding printed resolutions
Retiring Governing Board members Kirin Macapugay (L) and Leticia Cazares hold resolutions honoring their service.

Before the swearing-in ceremony, community members thanked retiring Governing Board members Leticia Cazares and Kirin Macapugay. Cazares served one four-year term and Macapugay served one year in an appointed position.

It was an emotional farewell for Cazares, who spoke of the importance of second chances.

A person who was justice-impacted, Cazares has been a strong advocate for the district’s Restorative Justice program and demonstrated the importance of seeing students where they are now.

“When you provide students with the support they need… When you take time out of your hectic day to see and hear someone who is struggling… This is why I ran for the Southwestern College board,” Cazares said.

Macapugay, who is a tenured faculty at San Diego City College, wore her native Filipino dress to honor her mother at the ceremony. Her mother, who had received a fourth grade education, was Macapugay’s inspiration, she said.

“That I’m a college professor… this is the universe’s way of saying this is where I belong,” Macapugay said. “Higher education is a pathway to hope and knowledge.”

At the conclusion of the recognition ceremony, each of the outgoing governing board members received proclamations and resolutions from the Southwestern College Governing Board, Congresswoman Sara Jacobs, State Senator Steve Padilla, Assemblymembers David Alvarez and Tasha Boerner Horvath and County Supervisor Nora Vargas.

The December Governing Board meeting is also the board’s organizational meeting where they elect officers and establish their meeting schedule for the upcoming year. The board members selected Roberto Alcantar to continue serving as Governing Board President and Dumas as Governing Board Vice President.