October 24, 2008

Three candidates for Southwestern College Seat 1 talk about Latino students

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

As the only institution of higher learning in the South Bay, Southwestern College is one of the most important educational assets for Latinos in the area.

It usually becomes the only option for low-income Latinos when it comes to a college education.

The three candidates for Southwestern College seat 1 on the governing board election on Nov. 4, say that, because the college serves a high percentage of Latino students, it is important to address the issues that affect this population.

The three candidates for Seat 1 are Jean Roesch, the incumbent and an educator; Mitch Thomson, a public finance professional; and Brett Davis, a business owner.

Roesch, who has more than 33 years in education, said she will continue to strive for making higher education more accessible to Latinos and low-income students by providing college fee waivers and book grants.

She said she also supported the book rental program, where students can rent textbooks from the SWC bookstore at a fraction of their cost.

Jean Roesch

Roesch said that she also voted in favor of construction and development of Higher Education Centers in Otay Mesa, San Ysidro, and National City, all three communities with high concentrations of Latinos.

“I have stood firm on supporting the access of quality education to all our community of which is predominately Latino,” she said. “In addition, I am a strong advocate and supporter of diversifying the make-up of faculty and staff. I am a strong believer that faculty and staff have to reflect the student population we serve. I will continue to advocate for affordable, quality education for everyone in our community.”

Thomson, who has been endorsed by several Latino elected officials in the South Bay, including State Assemblymember Mary Salas and Chula Vista City Council members Rudy Ramirez and Steve Castaneda, said that there are two main issues that Southwestern College should address concerning Latino students: Financial aid and preparing Latinos for the better-paying jobs.

“Because Latino family incomes are less, financial aid and part time program that serve their needs are critical to attracting them and keeping them in higher education,” Thomson said. “Creating a plan that keeps them getting an education and does not cause them to go too far into debt is important to increasing numbers.”

He also added that as a board member he will support programs that help Latinos further develop their English-language skills, something that is basic to succeed in college.

Mitch Thomson.

“English language deficiencies continue to plague Latino students,” he said. “We need increased emphasis on bridging that gap. I would take a hard look at the entire system from at least junior high or high school and forward and work in a concerted effort with Sweetwater to further enhance language skills.”

Davis, whose family is from the state of Jalisco and who is the only Mexican-American running for Seat 1, said that in order to address the needs of Latinos, he will first listen to Latino students.

“I would address the needs of the Latino students by first hearing what their goals and needs are,” Davis said. “I would contact successful Latino business owners, community leaders and mentors from the Latino community and group them together with our Latino brothers and sisters to help them find their vocation and passion.”

Davis said that it’s important for the college to offer more vocational opportunities for Latino students.

“I absolutely feel that I can contribute more to the development of the college,” he said. “We need to focus on creating jobs that pay well and utilize bilingual skills. The future will be in bio fuel, solar and wind power. The Latino consumer will be huge in this industry and the college will need to prepare for the demand.” 

Brett Davis.

The three candidates are interested in attracting the Latino vote. They know that since Southwestern College has a large Latino student population, Latino students play an important role in the Nov. 4 election.

Roesch said: “I am proud to have supported the permanent structure of the San Ysidro Higher Education Center. The re-modeling from temporary trailers to a permanent and beautiful building will allow accessibility to more educational programs and services for students, and better serve the community of San Ysidro.”

Thomson said: “I have a long history in the Latino community. Many South Bay Latinos, and Latinos throughout the State and the entire Southwest, know me well. I married into a Latino family and my children are Latino. I feel I understand Latino issues well. Issues related to economic and educational advancement (issues that affect Latinos, but are not exclusive to Latinos) are things I have dealt with my entire career. Issues of social justice, fairness and equity will be a part of me to my last days.”

Davis said: “If elected, I would schedule more mandatory appointments with counselors to verify that students are successfully completing courses needed to transfer to a four year college/university.”

It is up to Latino students and community to decide who they want in Seat 1 of the Southwestern College governing board. Vote on Nov. 4 for the candidate you feel will work for your education.

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