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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.

CA Community Colleges Chancellor Volunteers at SWC Jag Kitchen

Chancellor Gonzales working with her team in the Cares Closet
Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Daisy Gonzales (center) begins sorting donated clothes with Asst. Vice Chancellor Dr. Siria Martinez (R) and Marrin Thuston (L).

Bearing bags of clothes to donate, California Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Daisy Gonzales and members of her executive leadership team spent a day of service in Southwestern College’s Jag Kitchen and SWC Cares Closet.

Gonzales and her team spent the morning sorting clothes and packaging snacks and holiday food bags for Southwestern College students. The Day of Service is an annual tradition for the chancellor and her team.

The volunteer opportunity also gave Gonzales the chance to speak with students and hear the challenges they face during finals week and throughout the school year.

Meeting Students

Chancellor Gonzales greets the Hartigans
Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Daisy Gonzales (L) greets students Celeste L. and Thomas Hartigan at the Jag Kitchen.

Among the students Gonzales met were husband and wife Thomas and Celeste L. Hartigan. Both in their mid-50s, each had been laid off from their jobs earlier this year. They decided going back to college was their best opportunity to get back on their feet.

“We’re your “non-traditional” students,” said Thomas Hartigan, who is studying business administration. “We were the ones who were always volunteering and never thought we would have to be on the receiving end.”

Celeste Hartigan said returning to college has been challenging because they didn’t know how much they didn’t know about support services.

“But we knew where to go to ask for help,” she said.

Chancellor Gonzales gave the couple a pep talk.

“Thank you for proving anything is possible,” Gonzales said. “You already have my wheels turning from what you said and what we can do to better assist students.”

The Jag Kitchen Food Pantry began in 2016 to offer Southwestern College students free food and opportunities to sign up for Cal-Fresh. The Cares Closet, which takes in donated clothing for students to select, began three years later. The two services merged this semester.

SDSU and SWC Receive BofA Grants to Increase Hispanic Healthcare Graduates

Students in medical assisting program practice blood draw.
Southwestern College students in the medical assisting program practice blood draws.

San Diego State University and Southwestern College have each been awarded a two-year $250,000 grant from Bank of America to support Hispanic students pursuing careers in high-growth fields, such as healthcare, through its Progresando Initiative. This initiative is part of Bank of America’s efforts to create economic opportunities for people and communities of color, including a $25 million jobs initiative that includes partnerships with Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and colleges to build career pathways for Hispanic students and address the shortage of culturally proficient, Spanish-speaking health providers.

SDSU and Southwestern College were two of 12 HSIs across the U.S. selected to join the program nationally, which also includes education consulting firm EAB providing research, technology, marketing and advisory services to participating HSIs.

A notable demand in particular for nurses – the largest of the healthcare professions – exists in California, where the nursing shortfall was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the nursing shortage continues to impact the nation, one alarming statistic shows fewer than 6% of nurses are Hispanic, which is disproportionate to the growing community that is often critically underserved in healthcare.

Nearly 70% of students served by the Southwestern Community College District are Hispanic, many of whom are the first generation in their families to go to college and often don’t have a roadmap to ease their transition into higher education. This means that, often, Hispanic students do not move beyond pre-requisite science courses into core program courses. The Progesando grants at SWC will serve more than 560 Hispanic students with programming needed complete and advance beyond the prerequisite coursework, onto to nursing, paramedic, dental hygiene and medical laboratory technician careers.

“This funding is critical to support our Hispanic students seeking careers in the healthcare fields,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez. “We know those seeking medical services want to be attended to by bicultural, bilingual healthcare professionals. With this funding, we can help decrease the gap.”

SDSU will use its funding to create programming for Hispanic learners seeking careers in healthcare and behavioral health services, with assistance for financial challenges and lack of knowledge about the path to healthcare careers. Programming will include undergraduate, graduate, post baccalaureate and certificate programs to 200 Hispanic adult learners over two years. Matching funds of an additional $250,000 from the San Diego Foundation will provide paid opportunities for participants to shadow health career professionals, peer-to-peer mentorship and potential for paid internships to support the counties’ mental health initiatives.

“We’ve just hired an individual who will run the program and serve as coordinator and retention specialist,” said Emilio Ulloa, associate chief diversity officer for HSI and Regional Affairs at SDSU. “We’re going to be positioning this program to focus attention on this cohort of students and connect them to the wealth of resources we have on campus, in sciences and health and human services, and student affairs.”

“San Diego is home to some of the country’s premier healthcare institutions, and Progresando helps create a pathway toward fulfilling careers for SDSU and SWC’s Hispanic student population,” said Rick Bregman, president, Bank of America San Diego. “The shortage of healthcare workers is likely to increase over the next few years and we are thrilled to be able to help Hispanic students be part of the solution while creating better futures for themselves.”

BVHS Student Dual-Enrolled at Southwestern College is Editor-in-Chief of El Sol Magazine

Nikki holding Sun newspaper and El Sol magazine
Southwestern College El Sol Editor-in Chief & Sun student journalist Nicolette Monique Luna holds her edited periodicals in front of the Sun Newspaper.

Nicolette (Nikki) Monique Luna emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with some pretty impressive accomplishments under her belt. While a 16-year-old student at Bonita Vista High School, she also helmed the Southwestern College Sun newspaper and El Sol magazine into another award-winning year, earning recognition for herself along the way.

Admittedly a reluctant reader as a child, Nikki caught the publication bug in the 5th grade when she discovered DC Comics. The storytelling in comics, graphic novels, newspapers and magazines changed her academic trajectory.

Fast-forward to 2019 as a freshman in high school, Nikki was stuck at home, fully remote during the COVID-19 pandemic, like her peers. Due to the online learning environment, Nikki was pushed to learn and develop time management skills, troubleshooting on her own and connecting with peers. Nikki was able to push through this challenge through the use of lists, planners, organizational skills, patience, analytical skills and familial support.

During that time, she also did not have a lot of extra-curricular activities to choose from. That was until she discovered an advertisement for an online journalism class at Southwestern. One class in the summer of 2020 and she was instantly hooked. Nikki turned this dual-enrollment program during her sophomore year into an opportunity to meet and work with lots of people, lower her future tuition cost, obtain college credits while in high school and grow as a result of the college environment.

In her free time, Nikki serves the local community as a youth ambassador for the Bonitafest Planning Committee, is an active member of the Dog Pound Club at her high school, and is on the Mock Trial team as an Opening Attorney at Southwestern.

What Nikki dreams of is not your typical high school dream– she works hard and puts a lot on her plate to set herself up for success.

Recently San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and County Supervisor Nora Vargas recognized Nikki as one of San Diego County’s 25 Most Remarkable Teens for 2022. A huge accomplishment for someone her age, but Nikki says she won’t stop there.

Nikki aspires to graduate from high school, move to New York City, attend her dream college (Columbia University), work in the field of magazine publication or law and start her own magazine.

Nikki is a genuine, ambitious, dedicated and passionate young individual, who does what she loves. Her parting advice to her fellow peers: “Start early! Grow and get more experiences. Meet amazing people. Don’t be afraid to go for it!”

SWC President Sanchez Named Among San Diego’s 500 Most Influential

SWC President Sanchez standing in front of Performing Arts Center
Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez stands proudly outside new Performing Arts Center.

The San Diego Business Journal has named Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez as among the top 500 most influential people in San Diego.

Sanchez, who has led the college since 2020, was included as among the most influential in higher education. Earlier this year, Sanchez was recognized as one of the Top 50 Latino Leaders of Influence by the San Diego Business Journal.

During his tenure at the college, Sanchez has created an academic partnership between Southwestern and the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) to allow a cohort of UABC students to attend Southwestern College at the resident tuition rate.

Working with the Governing Board, Sanchez developed a policy that waives facility rental fees for members of the 13 federally recognized Kumeyaay tribes within San Diego County as a way to honor establishing college operations on Kumeyaay land.

Sanchez has also been instrumental in rebuilding enrollment since the COVID pandemic shut down many college operations in 2020. Enrollment is up more than 8.5 percent from fall last year, and the number of applications has increased nearly 4 percent this year.

“We continue to expand the number of opportunities for our Southwestern College community,” Sanchez said. “We’re building a new university center to help students earn a bachelor’s degree without leaving the Chula Vista campus. We’re developing new job readiness programs that get students high-wage jobs.

“Now is the time to be a Southwestern College student,” Sanchez said.

Enrollment for the spring semester is currently open. The spring semester begins Jan. 30. To apply and register for classes, head to www.swccd.edu/schedule.

New Call Center Up and Running

Outreach peer ambassadors sitting at computers ready to answer student phone calls.
Outreach Peer Ambassadors sitting at computers ready to answer student phone calls.

Southwestern College students can now get immediate answers to their questions by calling the new Jaguar Call Center.

The call center, which launched Monday, is staffed by Outreach Peer Ambassadors 49 hours each week. The call center is located in the Cesar E. Chavez Student Services Center, building 68 on the Chula Vista campus.

The Peer Ambassadors are ready to assist and guide students with registration and application processes, as well as connect them to other departments that may help them with their needs.

Peer Ambassadors Samara Cota, Polette Duarte and Ivan Luna, along with technical assistant Alfredo Farias, were the first to staff the center Monday, and are eager to serve their fellow students.

Luna is excited about his new task.

 “We kindly invite you to call us up,” Luna said. “We will be more than happy to assist you with any of your concerns, questions and inquiries regarding the college or any procedure you may be having trouble with.”

The Jaguar Call Center is open from 8 am – 6:30 pm Monday through Thursday and 8 am – 3 pm on Friday. Call 619 482-6482 to speak with a Peer Ambassador.

For more information on all the ways to connect with student services—in person, online and the call center, visit the Help Center.

Southwestern College Honors Vets in Annual Ceremony

Veterans Ceremony GIF
Members of the San Diego 82nd Airborne Association Color Guard carry in the American Flag.

Southwestern students, faculty and employees gathered for the annual Veterans’ Day ceremony Thursday.

Held in the new venue of the Performing Arts Center Black Box theater because of the inclement weather, the enthusiasm was not dampened. For the first time, two students each received $500 scholarships from the San Diego 82nd Airborne Association. Army Maj. Luis Lopez presented the checks to student veterans Ruben Ramos and Kortney Baecker.

Speakers included Navy veteran Marc Colcleaser, who is the executive assistant to Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez, and former Southwestern College Governing Board Member and retired Army Sgt. Nick Aguilar.

Former Southwestern College Governing Board Member Nick Aguilar speaking at podium.
Former Southwestern College Governing Board Member and retired Army Sgt. Nick Aguilar served as keynote speaker at this year’s Veterans’ Day Ceremony.

The Southwestern College Concert Choir, Chamber Singers and Jazz Vocal Ensemble, under the direction of Prof. Tracy Burklund, performed “I Lift My Lamp,” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Spring Semester 2023 Student Vaccine and Mask Guidelines

Students walking and talking near Math & Science Building
Students heading to classes and hanging out at the Math & Science building.

When Southwestern College spring semester 2023 begins on Jan. 3, students will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination for in-person classes and services and masks will be optional indoors and outdoors, with a few exceptions outlined below.

Southwestern College leadership finalized the new guidelines this week after receiving extensive feedback from employee constituency groups and county medical health experts.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we are working diligently to normalize our operations,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez. “We have improved our online services and will continue expanding opportunities to meet students’ educational needs, both in-person and online.”

Vaccine Mandate Ended

When the four-week January intersession begins Jan. 3, and continuing when the full spring semester begins Jan. 30, students will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination to attend in-person classes or access in-person services. We still highly recommend that students and community members receive the vaccine and new booster for their personal health protection. The college will work with local health providers to promote access to the vaccine, the bivalent booster and flu shots. For information on community vaccination sites, head to the San Diego County Vaccination Schedule webpage.

All managers and classified employees will now be in their offices five days a week, beginning Jan. 3. In addition to in-person support, we will continue to offer many of our student services virtually through our Cranium Cafe and Virtual Lobbies. We are currently updating our Help Center webpage to outline how to continue to access all of our student services.

Spring registration begins Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. To apply and register, head to www.swccd.edu/spring.

Face Masks Optional (Mostly)

Students’ use of face masks indoors and outdoors will be a personal and optional decision. There are a couple exceptions, however. Students accessing Student Health Services in building 62A-106 (next to Math & Science building), will still be required to wear masks indoors while accessing services.

Individual faculty members may also require masks in their in-person classes. Faculty must include that requirement in their class syllabus to alert students. Instances of students not complying with this requirement will be treated as a student code of conduct issue, following the process outlined in Administrative Procedure 5520.

Students enrolled in health-related courses where masks are required in professional settings will also continue to be required to wear masks in their classes.

Thank You for Your Resilience

This has been a challenging time for all of us, yet our Southwestern College students have been resilient and persevered to accomplish their educational goals. We will continue to find ways to meet students’ needs and support you on your journeys.

Southwestern College Receives Ambulance from AMR

EMTs, paramedics, Otay Mesa and college leadership cut ribbon in front of new ambulance donation.
Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez, Dean Silvia Cornejo, Governing Board Member Roberto Alcantar and AMR leaders cut ribbon on donated ambulance.

Representatives from AMR cut the ribbon and handed over the keys to a fully-equipped ambulance to Southwestern College’s EMT/paramedic program Wednesday. The van-style ambulance will serve as a hands-on educational resource and recruitment tool for new students interested in the field of emergency medicine.

“We are extremely grateful to AMR for this very generous gift,” said Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez, “AMR has long been a great partner in our effort to produce top-notch EMTs and paramedics for the San Diego region, especially the South County. Their commitment to partnering with Southwestern College in educating the next generation of our workforce is truly valued.”

The ambulance, which is wrapped in an eye-catching design created by graphic arts students at Southwestern College, features an EKG monitor and defibrillator, an IV kit, a stretcher, a trauma kit to treat broken bones and stop bleeding and an airway kit to facilitate proper ventilation.

“Southwestern College has one of the oldest and largest training programs in the county,” said Claudia Rempel, government and community affairs and operations manager for AMR. “We’re pleased to once again be able to support their efforts to recruit and train the next generation of emergency medical professionals.”

Wednesday’s donation ceremony was the 20th anniversary of AMR’s first donation of a simulation ambulance to the college. At the time, it was the only simulation ambulance of its kind in the western United States, Rempel said. It is permanently mounted within one of the program’s classrooms.

Hands-On Training Makes a Difference

Program graduate Maria Mora, who is now employed as an EMT with AMR, said the hands-on resources were critical for her education.

“My favorite days in the program were the simulation days,” said Mora, who is also aspiring to be a physician’s assistant. “Loading and unloading the gurney and using the other equipment on the rigs were critical to my success.”

Mora is the kind of diverse student the program and AMR are looking to recruit.

“With this new ambulance, we’ll be able to take our training program to the next level,” said Jason Hums, director of the college’s paramedic and EMT programs. “And it will be especially useful as a recruiting tool as we seek to increase diversity in the field of emergency medical services to better represent the communities we serve.”

Governing Board President Roberto Alcantar agreed.

“Resources like this bring equity to our community,” Alcantar said. “In some of our communities, people are fearful of calling 911. With resources like this, we are teaching our students how to better serve our community.”

AMR has also provided financial incentives to a diverse student population with their Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship Program. Each year, the company offers 10 $1,000 scholarships, which can be used by students to offset the cost of tuition, and for books and uniforms.

All African Diaspora Education Summit in Ghana

attendees to diaspora conference in Ghana
The Southwestern College group attending the All African Diaspora Education Summit in Ghana reported life-changing experiences. Bottom row L-R: Brenna Leon Sandeford, Learning Communities Hub coordinator; Jordan Bear, student; Dr. Shaunte Griffith-Jackson, MSE professor; Ronnie Hands, director of student development; Mistura Adelekan, student.
Top row L-R: Louis Wright, UMOJA Learning Communities coordinator; Janelle Williams Melendrez, executive officer of Equity & Engagement; Ursula Morris Williams, interim supervisor, Admissions & Records; Laura Brooks, Language, Literature & Humanities professor.

A recent trip to Ghana provided a new perspective on Africa for San Diego County community college educators and students and ignited a push to highlight the important role that the continent and its people have made to the world.

“It was the experience of a lifetime,” said Michael Whyte, a San Diego City College student who was part of the group that attended the 2022 All African Diaspora Education Summit in Ghana. “It makes you look at everything differently. It puts everything in perspective.”

The summit was held at the University of Cape Coast, September 19-24, and representatives attended from all the community college districts in San Diego County–Grossmont-Cuyamaca, MiraCosta, Palomar, San Diego and Southwestern.

Ricky Shabazz, president of San Diego City College, said the summit grew out of previous trips to Africa sponsored by the African-American Male Education Network & Development organization (A2MEND), a statewide group of Black male community college administrators and faculty members. He said more than 300 people attended the Ghana conference, predominantly from California community colleges, but also from around the nation and the world.

Shabazz shared that a key goal of the conference was to discuss how to bring an African-centered education to the United States, setting aside an outdated view of a primitive culture. He hopes to develop partnerships with African universities so that students here can study abroad, and African students can study at San Diego’s community colleges.

“We need to define an education that tells the story from the lens of Africa,” said Shabazz. “Very often we get a colonized view of education that allows European groups to take credit for things like mathematics and physics and medicine, which has its origins in places like Ghana.”

For many of the participants, the most memorable event of the trip was a visit to the Cape Coast Castle and the Cape Coast Dungeons, where as many as 1,000 slaves were held at a time before being loaded onto ships and sold into bondage.

Sunita V. Cooke, superintendent/president of MiraCosta College, said the trip was a powerful reminder of the oppression that slaves suffered.

“The dehumanization of enslaved people and a history that begins with slavery denies the incredibly long and rich history of the African people,” said Cooke.

SWC conference attendees posing outside Kaum National Park.
During a break at the Diaspora conference, Southwestern College attendees hike in Kakum National Park. Bottom row L-R: Ursula Morris Williams, Jordan Bear, Brenna Leon Sandeford, Ronnie Hands. Top row L-R: Louis Wright, Dr. Shaunte Griffith-Jackson, Janelle Williams Melendrez, Dr. Jamal Gwathney.

Southwestern College Administrator Able to Fill in Gaps

Another notable event was a reception at a village in which the participants were welcomed home to Africa. Ronnie Hands, director of student development and health services at Southwestern College, said the ceremony changed his perspective on his identity as an African-American.

“Many African-Americans are detached from Africa. Many of us have filled in the gaps in our history and our everyday life,” shared Hands. “To feel welcome is an incredible feeling for many African-Americans.”

Carmelino Cruz, acting chief diversity officer at Palomar College, said the visit made him think more deeply about the challenges that Black people face.

“Even though I’m not white, I haven’t felt like a minority. I haven’t felt out of place. Now I do,” he said. “I can’t say I know what my African-American brothers and sisters feel, but it helps me to put it into perspective.”

Sam Rigby, who works with a program that aids former foster youth at Grossmont College, said that adding an African lens to education will better serve Black students.

“I’m excited and eager to learn how to incorporate what we learned and apply that to our A2MEND Charter and my everyday approach to serving students on our campus,” he said.

Whyte said the visit to Ghana made him appreciate the opportunities he has for his life here.

“It’s never too late. The sky is the limit. I don’t want to hear ‘I can’t do that,’” he said. “The people in Ghana are making things happen out of nothing.”