When most students hand in an assignment, they get a grade, Alex Villa got four hundred students to talk about immigration.
For his creative writing assignment in late March, Alex wrote to his principal, urging her to address the issue of immigration reform with her students. While many of his fellow Latinos staged protests and walk-outs, Alex suggested that Point Loma High hold an open forum for students and staff.
“The walk-outs could have been avoided if students just had the chance to vent,” Alex recalls. “I wanted it to be more constructive, to have students speak with their peers fixing the problem from the inside, instead of protesting on the outside.”
His principal was impressed. That Friday, she called Alex into her office. “Go ahead,” she said. “Let’s have it Monday. You’re in charge.”
It was a tall order, but Alex remained calm. At the end of the school day, he drove to Barrio Logan College Institute, where he has been a weekly fixture since 1997. He discussed his challenge with the staff. He did some research. He made plans.
Three days later, he spent two class periods moderating an open forum on immigration reform for over 400 of his fellow high school students.
Looking back, Alex points out that he is no stranger to initiating change. This fall, he joins his sister Claribel as part of the first generation in the Villa family to go to college. Claribel, also a BLCI alum, has just completed her freshman year as a business and fashion merchandising major at CSU, Northridge. Alex starts courses at Miramar College in September.
Alex attributes their success to his mother. A single mom, Sra. Villa pushed her children to join BLCI and made sure they stayed involved. “BLCI became a second home,” he said. “When Claribel and I were kids, college was not an achievable goal. Now that we’ve both gone through the program, my relatives think ‘Oh, another one down.’ The opportunities, the college trips, and contacts we make here mean that we’re starting something new for our family. Claribel is the first I’m second. And there’ll be more to come.”
Alex has big plans. At Miramar, Alex won’t have to take out loans (he has already won the MTS Coca-Cola Scholarship), and he can put his studies to practical use through Miramar’s Toyota Technical Education Network (T-TEN) program. But he wants to use the program as a starting point. He plans to study economics and political science. He plans to own his own business. He plans to run for office in his community.
He plans to do a lot. But he also plans to relax on July 15th, at BLCI’s graduation ceremony and to celebrate all he has accomplished.