August 15, 2008
By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
Southwestern College is one step closer to opening a $ 5.6 million brand new, state-of-the-art Higher Education Center at San Ysidro in the spring of 2009.
A topping-off ceremony took place on Thursday, August 7, to mark the completion of the formation of steel over the newly designed building.
“The topping-off ceremony symbolizes the completion of one more milestone in the construction of this beautiful new facility that will continue to provide educational access to the residents of 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.
The ceremony was attended by local officials, construction firm’s representatives, members of the community, and Southwestern College administrators.
“It’s very rewarding to see the progress being made on this new facility,” said Dr. Raj Chopra, superintendent/president of Southwestern College. “The residents of San Ysidro, along with all the residents of this District, made this possible with their support of Prop AA. We are extremely grateful to them. We are looking forward to providing the educational training and skills needed to help ensure the success and financial prosperity of the San Ysidro community.”
Founded in 1988, the original Higher Education Center at San Ysidro closed last August to begin construction of the new site.
The Higher Education Center at San Ysidro had outgrown its facility and had exceeded its original enrollment projections. More than 1,000 students were taken classes there. The new center would have room for some 2,000 students.
Suarez said that the Higher Education Center at Otay Mesa, which opened last August, has been a success. Also, many students from San Ysidro have been commuting to the Otay Mesa center.
“Students are very enthusiastic and excited about their new facility [at Otay Mesa], where we continue to train the future police officers, nurses, emergency response personnel, firefighters, and many more,” Suarez said.
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.
More than anything, the new center represents a new era in higher education in San Ysidro, Suarez said.
“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.”
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.
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 a McDonald’s located at 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.
“We are very proud of the long standing relationship that Southwestern College has established with the San Ysidro community,” she said. “The center has been a place where dreams of many have been realized through educational opportunities and we look forward to providing those opportunities for years to come.”