Experiences as Black Women in Education

Photo by Zayda Cavazos

“Education is freedom!” declared Frederick Douglass. “Amen!” said four resilient African- American women who shared powerful stories about their struggles to become educated during an event called “Experiences as Black Women in Education.” Dr. Rachel Hastings, assistant professor of communications, and Ursula Morris Williams, MBA, SWC’s Facilities, Leasing and Events Coordinator, held two baskets and asked the audience to raise their right hand and throw negativity towards the baskets. It was a symbolic motion representing the letting go of skepticism, racism, preconceived notions, negative attitudes, generalizations, stereotypes and fear. Hastings continued with a narrative by Mary Smith, a free African-American woman during the early 1800s who, like all other African-Americans, was banned from teaching. “At the age of 16, Mary…

Two Worlds One Fence

FROM SERVICE TO DEPORTEE -- Hector Barajas, a United States Air Force veteran, joined the military to create a better life for his family, but was deported to Mexico and lives in the squalid Tijuana River bottom. He can no longer see his daughter. "This is illogical, I fought for them [the United States] and now I am here alone with my heart broken," Barajas said.
It was a classic case of happy scene played against sad scene. Una fiesta en…
MIDDLE EASTERN MARVEL -- Lina Chankar was shot and beaten during the Lebanese Civil War, but survived to become a standout journalist and a SODA recipient. 
Photo by Karen Tome

Lebanese war refugee finds her powerful voice

Lina Chankar has a well-deserved reputation for being a tough journalist and a persistent reporter. Just ask some of the perpetrators of the South Bay Corruption Scandal. Journalism, though, seems like child’s play to Chankar compared to her childhood in Lebanon, a nation gripped by a bloody civil war that left more than 150,000 dead, 1 million displaced and 250,000 refugees. Chankar was one of those survivors. “Pretty much all I remember is war,” she said. “Growing up in a …

Photo by April Abarrondo

From Pluto to Plato: Why is love so powerful?

Why is love so powerful? It is in our DNA. Over the summer, I tried to recuperate from the throes of losing the woman I loved for 3 1/2 years. I rummaged through my thoughts and kept my winds about earth and I thought about love. Even in separation, my ex-partner’s presence inhabited my mind. That is the power of love. Explaining love is best left to poets, but scientists have also been hard at work contemplating the realm of …

DRUMMING UP SUPPORT — Gene Perry was the heartbeat of Unsung Heroes and Sheroes.  
Photo by Victor Ene

College celebrates achievements of talented African-American students

Dashing in her dashiki, Donna Arnold bid the crowd “karibu!,” a Swahili welcome that tumbled as thunder across the savannah bracing for a storm of life-giving rain. Southwestern College’s ebullient dean of Arts and Communication was clear in her message. “It’s on!” Black History Month was four weeks of fun, reflection, celebration and renewal anchored by a stunning gallery exhibit by fiery Maxx Moses that was capped by SWC’s third annual Unsung Heroes and Sheroes. Honoring outstanding African-American students and …

THE LON ROAD HOME — Retiring SWC IT whiz Lon Cooper is hiking royalty due to his popular website and epic treks. In April he will start a 2,660 mile hike from Mexico to Canada. 
Courtesy Photo

Lon Cooper Walks Off the Job

  FORREST GUMP JUST FELT LIKE RUNNING.  LON COOPER, SOUTHWESTERN COLLEGE’S PERIPATETIC INSTRUCTIONAL LAB TECHNICIAN, JUST FELT LIKE HIKING. Cooper retires from SWC on March 7, one day shy of his 59th birthday.  After bidding farewell to the campus and community he has helped to keep running, he plans to do some walking. All the way to Canada. “On April 3 I am going to Campo,” he said.  “That is where the start of the Pacific Crest Trail is and …

Alicia Cerantes of Salt LAke City was overwhelmed by the tragedy of the Holtville Cemetary. 
Photo by Anna Pryor

Remembering the Forgotten

  At first glance the Terrace Park Cemetery in Holtville, California, looks like any other. Green grass, trees, flowers and beautifully chiseled granite headstones mark the gravesites of the persons interred there. However, a closer look toward the back of the cemetery reveals a no trespassing sign next to a locked gate. On the other side, about 100 yards down a dirt road flanked by barren sunbaked dirt fields, the ground is littered with small bricks stamped with Jane and …

REBORN— Albert Fulcher survived a terminal diagnosis to become America's top student media leader. He is now Editor-in-Chief of the East County Californian newspaper. 
Photo by Serina Duarte

Working Wonders with a Second Chance

Albert Fulcher was a dead man walking. Diagnosed with HIV, he was told by his grim-faced doctors to get his affairs in order. After months and over the course of a year Fulcher relished his waning life until he realized one day that he was still alive and relatively healthy well past his doctor’s predicted expiration date. An experimental drug cocktail seemed to have worked. Fulcher was reborn. F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong. Fulcher got a second act and the …

New Spanish Certificate helps students land better employment

In Quebec there is a popular joke- Q: What do you call someone who speaks three languages? A: Trilingual. Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages? A: Bilingual. Q: What do you call someone who speaks one language? A: An American! A lot of Americans at SWC are gifted with a second language and, like sophisticated Europeans, can move back and forth between two (even three) languages fluidly. Like the scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz,” these talented multi-linguistic students only need a piece of paper to let the world know of their gifts. SWC’s School of Language and Literature offers the Spanish Proficiency Certificate, a passport into the professional world. This certificate helps students with bilingual …

GROUND BREAKING —Colleagues say Eddie Munguia has a big heart and two green thumbs. 
Photo by Victor Ene

Two green thumbs way up for cheerful patron of plants

San Diego City College was not working out for Eddie Munguia. He hated accounting, loathed computer programming. Then at Southwestern College he hit pay dirt. In the dirt. Dirt that pays. Today Munguia is the horticulture lab technician for the acclaimed South Bay Botanic Garden on campus. He is one of the region’s greatest green thumbs, skillfully tending a four-acre lot that is the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark and The Secret Garden all tucked into an oft-overlooked chunk of …

Professor scores an eye in the sky

In the 1700s Giovanni Piranesi was asked by the French Academy of Rome to etch the city’s ancient streets and monuments. He created a detailed 3D aerial perspective that captured minute details of every nook and cranny set in stone. Piranesi did it the hard way. He would love Southwestern College Professor of Geography Ken Yanow and the Geospatial Information Systems he has brought to the campus. Yanow came aboard full-time 12 years ago and inherited a situation out of the turn of the century—the 20th century not the 21st. He set out to bring in a GIS system like the one he had used as a graduate student at SDSU. He started to write grant applications to the United …

MOONBEAM — Luna Beneish leaps over obstacles on her way to a degree in molecular biology at age 76.  Photo by

Biologist shows education has no expiration date

In Spanish luna means moon. Bright, brilliant and wise, Luna Beneish is just like it. Born in the barrio of San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, Beneish was bit by a scholastic bug leaving her with an intense passion for education. At 76 years old, Beneish is a full-time student at Southwestern College, with hopes to one day transfer to San Diego State University. “I want to study molecular biology and partake in cancer investigation,” said …