January 16, 2009

“The first step to success”

Southwestern College opens new higher education center in San Ysidro

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

Magdalena Dexter remembers that, when she started taking child development classes in 1998 at the Southwestern College Higher Education at San Ysidro, the facilities weren’t in the best conditions.

She said that the building was small, classes filled up quickly, and there wasn’t a place where students could hang out or work on school projects.

Now she said she feels proud to see the state-of-the-art facilities, which open Wednesday January 14, after the old building closed in August, 2007, to rebuild it.

“My college is now beautiful,” said Dexter, who is taking her last class, an algebra course, before transfering to a 4-year university. “I’m amazed how it changed from being an ugly duckling to this.”

The new center now features more classrooms (it went from six to 11), computer labs, and improved student facilities. The new $5.6 facility has a capacity for approximately 2,000 students, although college officials expect about 1,000 students will enroll this semester.

It offers high demand areas of study, such as child development, English as a Second Language, and general education courses .

For acting-dean Silvia Cornejo-Darcy, the success stories taking place at the San Ysidro center will multiply with the new opening.

The 18,000 sq. ft., two-story building replaces the original one-story, 7,500 st. ft. temporary building, which was constructed in 1988.

It represents a new era in higher education in this border community, said Dr. Raj Chopra, superintendent/president of Southwestern College, the only institution of higher education based in south San Diego County.

“This center will open the doors to higher education to a whole new segment of the San Ysidro community,” he said. “It is the first step to success for hundreds of students here.”

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.

This new facility continues to be a tribute to those who died in the tragic event, and adds a spiritual component to the educational opportunities the center represents, said Chopra.

“It gives the opportunity for students and staff to see a spiritual perspective to their education, to their lives,” he said.

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 director of the center, TJ Tate, said that the center “is going to be great for the community of San Ysidro.”

The opening of the Higher Education Center coincides with the Centennial Celebration of San Ysidro and it is the first grand opening of three major projects scheduled for completion in the area, including a community center in the Villa Nueva Apartments and a women and children clinic at the San Ysidro Health Center.

“Show me a community that values education, health, and community, and that is San Ysidro. All of this will bring prosperity to this community,” said Chopra.

Registration for the courses that began on Wednesday, January 14, end on Friday, January 23. A new term of courses will begin in March.

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