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Successful Apprenticeship Readiness Program Expands to Southwestern College

Recent graduates of the construction apprenticeship program join local leaders at press conference.
Recent graduates of the construction apprenticeship readiness program join Southwestern College officials and partners from the construction trades at recent news conference.

Southwestern College will partner with the San Diego County Building & Construction Trades Council and the San Diego Workforce Partnership to expand its High Road Construction Apprenticeship Readiness Program to Southwestern College this fall semester.

This free program will prepare students for rewarding, well-paying careers in the construction industry. From its inception, the program has focused on opening opportunities for under-represented populations to enter apprenticeship programs and secure well-paying union construction jobs.

Students, especially those from non-traditional backgrounds, are encouraged to apply when the program begins this fall. More information will be announced as the application process becomes available.

“We’ve long worked to build programs that help our students thrive outside of traditional academic setting—and the Apprenticeship Readiness Program is exactly the kind of training that gives students real opportunity,” said Southwestern College Governing Board President Roberto Alcantar at a press conference announcing the partnership on Thursday.

Joining Southwestern College leaders to announce the partnership were local leaders representing the various trades and students who have successfully completed the readiness program.

“There are millions of jobs in the skilled trades, but millions of workers have never seen themselves in these jobs because they’ve never seen someone like them in these jobs,” said Carol Kim, business manager of the San Diego Building & Construction Trades. “Southwestern serves a diverse student population—nearly 90 percent students of color. On behalf of the member unions of the San Diego Building & Construction Trades, we can’t wait to welcome your students into rewarding careers as union workers.”

The 12-week program has successfully placed 97 percent of graduates into construction careers, including local union apprenticeships. More than 10,000 skilled workers are needed in coming years to meet the demand of construction projects in San Diego County.

Abigail Casteñeda was one of those successful graduates who found her way to the program during COVID. She said she had to quit her job and wanted a new opportunity to do something more fulfilling.

“Women are supported,” said Casteñeda, who is a member of IBEW Local 569.  “We have a sisterhood at the union. We all get together and talk about different things. I’m very happy.”

The program’s expansion to Southwestern College will help prepare more students for rewarding union careers in the skilled trades and meet local industry needs.

“Thanks to the partners who make this program possible, we’re able to offer this valuable experience at no cost to our students—meaning that our students can earn valuable experience and certifications they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford,” said Myesha Jackson, director of Continuing Education at Southwestern College.

Information on how to enroll in the Southwestern College program will be posted on the college’s Continuing Education webpage.

The Southwestern College Sun Wins Top National Awards

Southwestern College Sun journalists Camila Gonzalez, left, and Nicolette Monique Luna, right, with civil rights icon Dolores Huerta.

The Society of Professional Journalists has awarded the Southwestern College Sun two of its most prestigious awards, the first-ever Corbin Gwaltney Award—named in honor of the founder of The Chronicle of Higher Education—and the National Collegiate Newspaper of the Year. The Gwaltney Award includes a $5,000 cash prize.

The Sun, and its sister publication, El Sol Magazine, also racked up additional Society of Professional Journalists awards, including individual student awards for in-depth reporting and feature, column and sports writing. 

The Sun and El Sol were awarded for their work produced during the 2021 calendar year and included the team of top editors Julia Woock, Xiomara Villarreal-Gerardo, Camila Gonzalez and Nicolette Luna. 

“This championship is a tribute to the four young women who led the program in 2021 during a crisis and found a way to excel,” said Dr. Max Branscomb, adviser to the Sun and El Sol. “Julia, Xiomara, Camila and Nikki were remarkable because they managed everything remotely, without our lab, technology and equipment. It was frustrating and exhausting, but they were smart, creative and determined. They found a way to excel and inspired others to excel, too.”

The Sun competed in categories alongside other large schools including Harvard, UCLA, Columbia, Missouri, USC, Princeton and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State, among hundreds of others.

The Sun was also recently awarded Collegiate Newspaper of the Year by the National Newspaper Association. 

The judge’s comments were: “I wish I could give this entry First Place for (collegiate) general excellence and then submit it to the professional general excellence category because it is that good. The number of in-depth stories about not just college issues but community issues is incredible. So well done. Excellent! Simply excellent.”

County’s First Microenterprise Home Kitchen is Southwestern SBDC Client

Tres Fuegos Cocina owner and Southwestern College SBDC client Diana Tapiz is interviewed for TV news after she became San Diego County’s first microenterprise home kitchen operation (MEHKO).

The title of San Diego County’s first official microenterprise home kitchen operation (MEHKO) went to Diana Tapiz, owner of Tres Fuegos Cocina and client of the Small Business Development Center hosted at Southwestern College.

Southwestern College is home to the San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network lead center as well as the network’s South San Diego SBDC. Tapiz worked with one of the SBDC’s business advisors, Marisa Castaneda, to help launch, sustain and grow her small business.

Thank you so much for being there with us on such a monumental day for our business,” Tapiz said when Castaneda filmed Tapiz gaining her business’ MEHKO status. “The SBDC has played a huge role in our success.”

Tapiz described how she achieved the restaurant she dreamed of inside her home. She added how she’s grateful for the many SBDC resources available to her and to the county’s MEHKO program, which helped her launch her recipes to a larger audience. And she noted the MEHKO process is good for small business owners and good for San Diego.

Tapiz calls herself the “humbled business owner” of Tres Fuegos Cocina, and she happily shares how the SBDC helped her grow her business in many ways.

“It established goals for me to follow,” she said. “Going into the food business, I had no idea where to begin. I had no idea where to start. It was an amazing choice that I called (SBDC).”

A friend had told her about the SBDC, and Tapiz said she was lucky and grateful to meet Castaneda, who guided her through the process. 

Tres Fuegos started as a home-based business, but eventually expanded to work out of a commissary kitchen for a while. All the while Tapiz considered how best to handle the restaurant business and current environment.

“We wanted to see what people thought of our food, and it just boomed,” Tapiz said.

Tapiz has worked with her advisor, attended SBDC workshops and training series, gone through educational curricula, as well as managed the roller coaster of the pandemic — from business plans to relief funding.

“Don’t hesitate, call them,” Tapiz said of the SBDC. “They will help you. They will guide you. And they will give you a map for you to follow. I would have taken a longer time figuring that map out if I would not have come to you. And you’ve given me this beautiful map.”

Visit SDVISBDC.org to sign up for the San Diego & Imperial SBDC’s no-cost small business services including one-on-one advising, training workshops and resources. Plus learn about the college’s Center for Business Advancement, including the Women’s Business Center and small business government contracting support.

Southwestern College Visits Universidad Autónoma de Baja California to Certify Academic Partnership

A Southwestern College delegation met with representatives from UABC at the university's Tijuana campus.
A Southwestern College delegation meets with representatives from UABC at the university’s Tijuana campus for a ceremonial signing to certify their partnership.

Southwestern College sent a delegation to visit Universidad Autónoma de Baja California’s (UABC) Tijuana campus on Thursday afternoon to sign a historic memorandum of understanding. The signing certified the collaboration and academic partnership between the two institutions of higher education. 

The partnership between both institutions will create academic opportunities for the region’s students, study abroad programs, and help support diversity and equity efforts at both institutions. The partnership will allow cohorts of low-income UABC students to attend Southwestern College and pay California in-state tuition rates. 

Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez called the historic partnership an incredible way to contribute to the academic, cultural, social and workforce development of the San Diego-Tijuana region.

“I believe this is the beginning of an amazing collaboration that will be a benefit to our binational communities,” Sanchez said. “This is significant in that our binational region represents a $250 billion dollar economy. Future jobs will require specialized skills usually obtained through a degree, certificate or credential. Therefore, for us to work together to educate our communities is critically important.”

Southwestern College’s delegation was welcomed by administrators from UABC and representatives from the City of Tijuana as well as UABC faculty, staff and students. Maestra Edith Montiel Ayala, vice president of UABC Tijuana, said the partnership with Southwestern College will allow both institutions to work together to create new opportunities for the region’s students.

Dr. Joel Pilco, director of binational and international programs, worked closely with UABC and its administrators to develop the partnership and visit and said it is a step forward to cultivating closer relations with our neighboring institutions along the border region. 

“This partnership expands our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in international education programs,” said Dr. Pilco “Southwestern College will work to create programs that link colleges and universities from both sides of the border, share knowledge, and build a workforce ready to meet the future’s demand.”

Southwestern College has been renewing its commitment to working with universities in Mexico, especially in the border region. Local economic reports indicate that the San Diego-Tijuana border region needs more investment in educational programs and opportunities for underserved students in California and Baja California. 

Southwestern College Clears $3.5 Million in Student Debt

A student walks through the Chula Vista campus with a jacaranda in bloom.

Southwestern College is clearing $3.5 million in student debt for more than 7,719 students using special federal grant money. 

Students who were enrolled from spring 2020 through spring 2022 will have all their outstanding tuition and related enrollment fees cleared. Holds for non-payment will be removed from this group of students’ accounts and students are encouraged to re-apply and register for the summer session and upcoming fall semester. 

Students looking to re-apply can apply at swccd.edu/apply and get help applying or registering with Southwestern College’s Outreach department and virtual lobby.

This is the second time Southwestern College has cleared student debt to help break down financial barriers students may have to their education. This past fall, Southwestern College cleared more than half a million dollars in student debt, bringing the total to more than $4 million in student debt discharge within the past year. 

“Southwestern College is transforming the way we support our students and their pathways to a higher education,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez. “Through this second round of debt discharge, we are working to remove the financial barriers students might have to a college education. We are creating a clear pathway to skill attainment for our students to ensure they are competitive for the quality jobs in San Diego County. Creating opportunities for our students to secure an amazing career and live a quality lifestyle is the Southwestern College mission.”

Southwestern College is clearing the student debt using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act), passed in March 2020. These funds are specifically tied to supporting students who have faced financial hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Southwestern College’s summer session has already begun, and a new batch of classes begins on June 13. The fall semester schedule is out now and students can browse upcoming online and in-person classes before priority registration begins on June 13. The fall semester begins on Aug. 22.

Southwestern College Mask Mandate Returns for Summer-Fall 2022

A student walks down the library stairs wearing a mask.

Southwestern College will reinstate its mask mandate for the 2022 summer session and the fall 2022 semester. Members of Southwestern College’s reopening committee looked at the rise in new local COVID-19 infection rates to reinstate the college’s mask mandate that was set to lift on June 6.

Masks will remain required in all indoor buildings and facilities at all Southwestern College campuses including the Higher Education Centers and the Crown Cove Aquatic Center.

Certain programs, such as performing arts and athletics, may be granted exemptions from wearing a mask. Vaccines remain required for Southwestern College students and employees and boosters are highly recommended for all. 

In the event new case infection rates experience a significant decline, Southwestern College may remove the face mask requirement in indoor spaces.  Southwestern College’s reopening committee will continue to review local case rates and update the district’s campus health guidelines based on current COVID-19 case metrics. In addition, Southwestern College has been working with local public health experts in obtaining input and feedback on our health and safety protocols.

According to local public health officials, wearing a mask and being fully vaccinated, including boosters, remain the best and safest ways to protect our community from COVID-19. Visit the San Diego County’s vaccine website to find a vaccine site near you.

Southwestern College Food Services to Accept SNAP/EBT Payments 

A student walks into the Tradewinds Cafe.
The Tradewinds Café on the Chula Vista campus.

Southwestern College will soon accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and EBT payments at its on-campus food services, Time Out Cafe and Tradewinds. Southwestern College will be the only college in the region to accept SNAP/EBT payments, formerly known as food stamps, for its district-run food services. 

The program will be rolled out over the summer with full implementation by the beginning of the fall 2022 semester. Students will be able to purchase food products using their SNAP/EBT benefits at the Time Out Cafe and Tradewinds and future district food services, like the cafeteria when it reopens. 

The process to accept SNAP/EBT payments was a two-year journey, led by Governing Board Member Leticia Cazares and Dr. Kelly Hall, assistant superintendent/vice president of business and financial affairs. 

“We have an obligation to do what we can to make sure all of our students have an affordable and nutritious meal when they come here to take classes,” Dr. Hall said. “It was an equity issue and I felt like we really need to make this work to help support our students.” 

Dr. Hall said student data showed that students were staying on campus an average of five to six hours a day.

“We all know that our students are not going to learn to their maximum potential if they’re hungry and they don’t have access to a nutritious meal,” Dr. Hall said. “For me, it was really important to be able to provide a nutritious and affordable meal because our students spend so much time on our campus. This is another way we can remove a roadblock to success that doesn’t need to be there.”

The SNAP/EBT system will be integrated into the college’s payment system, meaning that students will pay using their SNAP/EBT card in the exact same way as debit and or credit cards.

The district’s SNAP/EBT program is part of Southwestern College’s transformation of student services to include basic needs support, including SWC Cares, the Jag Kitchen, housing assistance, technology assistance and more. Students can learn more about basic needs services at the district’s SWC Cares website

SNAP is a government program that helps people buy food. It is the largest program working to fight hunger in America. For more information on SNAP and local food assistance programs, including how to apply, visit San Diego County’s website.

In-Person Commencement Returns to Southwestern College for Largest Ceremony Yet

A student participates in Commencement at DeVore Stadium.
A student participates in the 2019 Commencement, the last ceremony held in DeVore Stadium.
On May 27, Southwestern College will celebrate its graduates at its largest commencement ceremony yet. With in-person ceremonies on pause since the start of the pandemic, Southwestern College will hold two separate commencement ceremonies to make room for guests and celebrate the perseverance and hard work of more than 900 graduating students.
The Commencement ceremonies will take place at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Students and guests can view the 2022 commencement flyer for more information on on the ceremony, parking and more.
“The perseverance and hard work that we’ve witnessed from our students throughout the past two years is one we’re extremely proud of and happy to celebrate along with them,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez. “We look forward to seeing our graduates continue pursuing their educational journeys and launch their professional careers.”
During the ceremonies, Southwestern College will award two honorary degrees to Carmen Martinez, the last living founder of San Ysidro Health, and Manuel “Memo” Cavada, the legendary South Bay photographer.
Both ceremonies will also be live-streamed via Southwestern College’s YouTube channel here. For its two previous commencements, Southwestern College celebrated graduates and their families with a live stream and car parades.

Southwestern College Designated ‘Gold’ Military Friendly School

Student veteran Student veteran Michelle Odvina, US Navy, stands in the Veterans' Resource Center flag garden.
Student veteran Michelle Odvina, US Navy.

Southwestern College has again been designated a Military Friendly School for its service to student veterans and military-affiliated students. This year, for the first time ever, Southwestern College has been designated a “gold” award among large community colleges for 2022-2023 for exceeding the standards among Military Friendly Schools.

Methodology and criteria were determined and evaluated by an independent council of higher education and military professionals. The council reviewed the institution’s scores on student retention, graduation, job placement, degree advancement and financial aid for student veterans.

One of the veteran students served by Southwestern College is Michelle Odvina, who served in the U.S. Navy for five years and is one of the student workers in the Veterans Resource Center.

Odvina served as a hospital corpsman and worked in medical facilities, including trauma centers. During her time in the Navy, Odvina was selected as one of the top three corpsmen in her hospital when she was stationed in the Great Lakes. After her service, Odvina returned to her hometown to find her way after the Navy and pursue a career in nursing.

“Coming into civilian life, I was a little lost,” Odvina said. “Then I came to Southwestern College and I had never felt more supported. Right away, I was let know about all the resources available to me, and now as a work-study student in the Veterans’ Resource Center, I get to help other veterans who need that same support.”

Jonathan “JD” White said the special designation is thanks to the hard work of staff, students, faculty and administrators who work diligently to support veterans and military-affiliated students.

“Throughout the pandemic, Southwestern College was able to continue and expand our efforts bringing services and support to our students,” White said. “The dedication of our community to our veterans is a true testament to excellence in service.”

Southwestern College’s services for student veterans and military-affiliated students include dedicated student services through Veterans Services, specialized counselors, military benefits and financial aid professionals, and the Veterans Resource Center. Student veterans and military-affiliated students can learn more about Southwestern College’s veteran support and services at swccd.edu/veterans.


Southwestern College Updates Health Guidelines for Summer Session

An aerial shot of the Chula Vista campus.
Southwestern College’s Chula Vista campus core.

Due to the sharp decline of local COVID-19 infections in San Diego County, including Southwestern College’s service area, Southwestern College is updating health guidelines for the summer 2022 session. The updates were informed by the college’s reopening group after reviewing employee/student survey results, current federal/state/local guidelines, and case and vaccination metrics in the college’s service area.

Beginning June 6, the first day of summer session, masks will be strongly recommended, but no longer be required indoors. Students and employees will still be required to be fully vaccinated (two doses of Pfizer/Moderna, one dose of Johnson & Johnson) to access in-person learning and services. Booster shots will be highly recommended, not required. 

Current health guidelines, such as masks indoors, remain in place until the end of the spring semester.

According to local public health officials, wearing a mask and being fully vaccinated, including boosters, remain the best and safest way to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19. Visit the San Diego County’s vaccine website to find a vaccine site near you. The college will continue to pursue partnerships to offer vaccines and boosters to students and employees.

Southwestern College leadership will continue to monitor local COVID-19 data and consult with local public health officials for the fall semester and beyond. If local case rates begin to surge, Southwestern College may reinstate previous health guidelines- including face masks in indoor spaces. 

Summer Health Guidelines

Graphic outlining Southwestern College's health guidelines for summer session. Mask and boosters will be highly recommended, not required.

Regular testing will no longer be required for students and employees who have an approved vaccine exemption with the district. Testing and additional health guidelines may be required for specialized programs, such as public health programs and athletics. Certain departments, such as Health Services, may still require masks.

Priority registration for summer 2022 will begin this Monday, April 25. Continuing students should check their registration date on MySWC. Open registration for the summer session begins May 6.

Although masks will no longer be required, masks are always welcome at all Southwestern College campuses and events. Southwestern College will continue to provide masks to students and employees. Upload of vaccination status and requests for exemption of vaccination remain in place.