July 6, 2007

Taking higher education closer to the community

Southwestern College opens new center in Otay Mesa, has big plans for San Ysidro

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

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.

Today, this July 18th it will be 23 years since the terrible event that shocked the community, Southwestern will continue honoring the victims through education for the South Bay with the grand opening of the Higher Education Center at Otay Mesa in the Fall and the temporary closing of the San Ysidro center at the end of Summer to built a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in 2009.

Dr. Angelica Suarez, dean of both education centers, 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.

“The number one comment from many members of the community was that, whatever structure we built, the monument should remain in the forefront,” she said. “The architects took this into consideration and worked around the monument, maintaining it in the same prominent location in front of the building.”


Dr. Angelica Suarez, (far right) dean of Southwestern College’s Higher Education Centers in San Ysidro and Otay Mesa pictured with other admin folks as they take a tour of their future home.

Construction of the new $5.6 million facilities will begin this Fall, after the closing of the current building on August 17.

The Higher Education Center at San Ysidro has outgrown its present facility and has exceeded its original enrollment projections. More than 1,000 students take classes there. The new center would have room for some 2,000 students.

Although the San Ysidro center will temporarily close, Suarez said that Southwestern College will continue offering popular classes, such as ESL, child development, and math, in other nearby locations, such as the San Ysidro Adult School and social services agency Casa Familiar.

“After doing surveys among students, they told us what classes they wanted to continue taking in San Ysidro. They wanted Southwestern to remain a strong presence in the community,” she said.

Many of the students that currently take classes in San Ysidro will be able to continue their education at the Higher Education Center at Otay Mesa, which premiers this Fall.

The new state-of-the art facility will cost approximately $25 million, and will have a capacity to serve up to 5,000 students.

Funding for the project came from Proposition AA, an $89 million bond approved by local voters in 2000.

The 70,000 square-foot facility will house a number of signature programs including the Police Academy, Environmental Technology, Nursing, Fire Science Technology, Paramedic, Emergency Medical Technician, and International Business.

Suarez said Southwestern will provide a transportation shuttle service from San Ysidro to the Otay Mesa center, which is located in a prominent export-import area.

“With the opening of the Higher Education Center at Otay Mesa, Southwestern College is providing yet another source of quality education for the residents of the South Bay,” said Greg Sandoval, Interim Superintendent/President of Southwestern College. “We have long honored the philosophy of decentralized enrollment, and we believe the new Otay Mesa facility is a shining example of this commitment.”

The center is being considered a regional center, and will promote its classes and services in Tijuana as well, Suarez said.

She said that Southwestern College is having conversations with several Tijuana universities to create educational agreements and opportunities for students on both sides of the border.

“The Center’s close proximity to the U.S./Mexico International Border provides an ideal setting for the study of border issues confronting both nations and engaging our students in global learning opportunities,” said Ron Dyste, SWC’s Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Southwestern College’s main location is in Chula Vista, but as the only institution of higher learning in the South Bay, in addition to San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, it also has a Higher Education Center in National City.

“The new Otay Mesa center is another way of taking education to the community,” Suarez said.

The Higher Education Center at Otay Mesa will offer many classes in the Fall. It is located at 8100 Gigantic St. For further information visit www.swccd.edu.

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