February 13, 2004

Southwestern College’s Diana Avila Named Secretary of National Governing Board of Women Work! The National Network for Women’s Employment

SWC Alumna Receives Women of Triumph Award from Women Work!

Chula Vista—Southwestern College (SWC) is proud to announce that Diana Avila, Counselor and Coordinator of the College’s Women’s Resource Center (WRC) and Center for Technical Education and Career Success (CTECS), was recently selected as Secretary to the National Governing Board of Women Work! The National Network for Women’s Employment.

Avila is one of two Latinas to be selected to this year’s Governing Board of this nationally recognized organization, dedicated to helping women from diverse backgrounds achieve economic self-sufficiency through job readiness, education, training, and employment.

“I am very excited about my selection. Women, especially Latinas, are underrepresented in the policy- making arena. I am looking forward to sharing my experience working with women in our local area at a national level,” said Avila, a member of Women Work! for the past 10 years and head of SWC Women’s Resource Center for 12 years. “I am hoping to raise awareness on Latino issues and leadership,” added the counselor, who will be attending the Organization’s 25th Anniversary Celebration February 19, 2004 in Washington, D.C.

Diana Avila

Avila will be accompanied by a group of five SWC students; all members of the College’s POWER Club (Partnership Organization With Empowering Resources), dedicated to supporting women’s success on campus; and by Aida Reyes, an SWC alumna, who will be receiving the Women of Triumph Award for her political and social activism.

While in Washington, the women will also meet with California senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and other Congress representatives to discuss various issues, among them the need for funding for women’s programs.

“We will be discussing women’s education issues and the need for programs to help women to continue their education,” said Norma Reyes, a Child Development major at SWC, who arrived on campus three years ago after separating from her husband of 23 years.

Leaving her husband, said Reyes, was not easy, and like many women, she said she was scared and confused, especially since she had no education.

Aida Reyes

“I wanted to do something for myself and my family,” said Reyes, a mother of two teenagers and a small child. “I also wanted to empower my own kids, teach them the importance of education,” added Reyes, who as treasurer of SWC’s POWER Club has been busy doing fundraisers to pay for the group’s trip to Washington. They need to raise a total of $8,000 and are accepting donations from businesses and corporations. Those wishing to contribute can do so by calling SWC’s Women Resource Center at (619) 421-6700 ext 5625.

Aida Reyes’ story is sadder and more triumphant. After 22 years of marriage, her husband, a literature professor, abandoned her and her two children. Reyes—not related to Norma— went from being financially stable and living in a good neighborhood in Tijuana to having nothing.

“Economically, I was dependent on him,” said Aida Reyes, adding that her husband was abusive and would not let her work or go to school. “There were days when we did not have money for food.”

With encouragement from her children, who were SWC students, she came to Southwestern College’s WRC, which she credits for helping her turn her life around.

While on campus, she wanted to clean the Center’s office, but the staff would not let her.

“That’s what I was accustomed to doing,” said Reyes. At the Center, she learned to use a computer, to write letters, and to get involved in women’s issues. “Little by little, I began to see how important it is for women to get involved in political decisions.”

After four years at SWC, Reyes transferred to San Diego State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Spanish Literature. She is currently finishing a Masters degree in Human Resources. Reyes is also Community Outreach Coordinator for Supportive Parents Information Network, an organization dedicated to helping low-income parents achieve self-sufficiency.

Regarding her Women of Triumph Award, Reyes said she is “honored” to receive such recognition.

“It was a complete surprise to me,” said Reyes, who is battling Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for the third time. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system. “It feels great to see that people think of you as a person who is creating change.”

During her trip to Washington, Reyes said she will also remind congressional representatives of the need to continue providing funding for women’s programs such as SWC’s Women’s Resource Center.

“The Women’s Resource Center is an oasis for women like me,” said Reyes. “It will always be a part of my life.”

SWC’s Women’s Resource Center is committed to empower, support, and motivate the developmental potential of women. The primary goal of the WRC is to serve as a referral service for all women and men seeking information on academic matters, student services, crisis assistance, childcare, food, health, legal advising, housing, and employment.

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