January 25, 2008

New era in higher education in San Ysidro

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

Southwestern College will break ground of its new, state-of-the-art Higher Education Center at San Ysidro on Friday, February 8, at 11 a.m.

The new $5.6 million facility will open in the spring of 2009. The 18,000 square-foot, two-story center will replace the original one-story, 7,500 sq. ft. building that opened in 1988. The original building closed in August, when Southwestern opened another Higher Education Center at Otay Mesa.

The new San Ysidro center will be built on the current site and will have more classrooms, computer labs, and improved student facilities.

More than anything, it will represent a new era in higher education in San Ysidro, said Dr. Angelica Suarez, Dean of the Higher Education at Otay Mesa and who is also serving as the lead administrator on the San Ysidro project. 

“I feel very proud to be part of such an important milestone in the history of Southwestern College and the San Ysidro community, who together as partners had the vision to establish this center almost 20 years ago,” Suarez said. “As a result, the San Ysidro Center has been deeply embedded into the rich fabric of this community and is viewed as a vital community resource that serves as a beacon of hope and opportunity for the residents of San Ysidro.”

Since August and during construction of the new site, Southwestern College has continued offering popular classes, such as ESL, child development, and math, in other nearby locations in the community, such as the San Ysidro Adult School and social services agency Casa Familiar.

“The Southwestern Community College District has been fulfilling its commitment to this community over the last two decades,” said Andrea Skor-epa, CEO of Casa Familiar. “I am proud to partner with the College to ensure that San Ysidro community members continue to have access to educational opportunities at any level.”

Suarez said that when the college surveyed the residents, businesses, and students, in San Ysidro, the need to offer courses in Computer Technology, English as a Second Language, Child Development, Math, and Reading was noted repeatedly.

Therefore, she said that the academic program will provide residents with an opportunity to take courses in these areas, plus other general education courses, such as Psychology, Art, and Biology. 

The former San Ysidro center was built in 1988 to accommodate a maximum of 1000 students. When it closed in 2007, the enrollment was 1,300 students for the Spring semester and 1,400 in the Fall semester. The new center is being built to accommodate current demand. The center will have an enrollment capacity of approximately 2,000 students, Suarez said.

“Southwestern College is committed to meeting the educational goals of every South County resident,” said David J. Agosto, Southwestern College Governing Board President. “This new facility furthers our mission and specifically allows us to bring comprehensive educational opportunities to residents in and near San Ysidro.”

Suarez said that the Higher Education Center at Otay Mesa, which opened in August, has been a success. Also, many students from San Ysidro have been commuting to the Otay Mesa center.

“We opened the Fall 2007 semester with 1400 students and we continue to work closely with the Otay Mesa community and Southbay region to offer the necessary academic programs to train the workforce in Nursing, Police, Fire Science, and Paramedics,” she said.

When Southwestern College opened the Higher Education Center at San Ysidro in 1988, it was meant to be a “living monument” for the victims of the 1984 massacre that took place in the same location where the education center was built.

Suarez said that the 21 marble pillar monuments that stand outside of the San Ysidro center in memory of the victims will remain in the new construction.

“This new facility will continue to strengthen a long standing relationship with the San Ysidro community,” Suarez said.

For more information on Southwestern College’s Higher Education Center at San Ysidro, visit www.swccd.edu.

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