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El Camino College | Spring 2015 #warriorlife | spring 2015 | 1

YOU JUST BLEW $10,000. Buzzed. Busted. Broke. Get caught, and you could be paying around $10,000 in fines, legal fees and increased insurance rates.

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meet the editors

Every day, we’re inspired by the stories we hear from our friends, classmates and teachers. This semester, for the first time in recent memory, the newspaper editorial board put together this magazine as a group. This edition of “Warrior Life” is unique because it’s the launch of the brand’s social media campaign, #WarriorLife. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages have been created to further connect our readers to the magazine staff for this semester and the semesters to come. Social media icons and hashtags are used throughout this issue. We’re all Warriors as students, faculty and staff members of El Camino College. So, tell us, what’s your definition of #WarriorLife?

Celine West

Rocky Rivera

Phil Sidavong

Jessica Martinez

John Fordiani

Jay Bamba

meet the staff [writers] Elizabeth Aviles Aryn Hicks Rocky Rivera Kiana Schmitt Tiana Smith Jean-Paul Udeh Celine West

[advisers] Kate McLaughlin Stefanie Frith

[photographers] Tristan Bellisimo Gilberto Castro John Fordiani Patricklee Hamilton Amira Petrus Jean-Paul Udeh Jorge Villa

Warrior Life is published every spring by El Camino College journalism students. The office is located in Room 113 of the Humanities Building at 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, CA 90506. Single copies of Warrior Life are free to the campus community and visitors. Additional copies are 25 cents and may be requested from the office or by calling 310-660-3328 during the fall and spring semesters. To advertise, contact the Student Publication Advertising Office: 310-660-3329.

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table of contents

page 6

page 8

page 13

people of el camino

the race to racial representation

building cars and breaking stereotypes

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page 17

page 20

singing toward getting a taste a dream of farmer’s market



page 24

page 27

page 32

page 34

life interrupted

american dream or nightmare?

the art of the bronze pour

music matters


page 36 more than your average green thumb gang

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Adam Cisneros, 19, engineering “I just want to spread as much love as I can because there is never enough of that.”

LeValley Pattison, \women’s volleyball coach

Jessica Gualotuna, 21, journalism and communications

Davit Springs, 18, administration of justice

“Saving up for my laptop was an achievement and having a part-time job was also an achievement.”

“I would try to definitely lower the amount of systemic racism. Racism is engrained so much into our society and it’s a really big issue.”

Joseph Tejada, 32, business

Genesis Linan, 19, English and film

“Just coming from New York, people are more socialized with one another. People speak to one another more often, but in California everyone just kind of seems to be doing their own thing and everybody’s like, ‘Get out of my way.’”

“I’m scared something defining will come and I won’t be prepared.”

Charlie James, 20, business

Megan Granich, math instructor

“We need recycling bins ‘cause there’s just trashes and seriously man, I don’t feel good about throwing bottles in trashes. I like recycling them.”

“My philosophy is anyone can learn math, just not everyone is going to learn it at the same pace. I can go over the homework. I can give you group work. I can put all the answers online. I can do all this stuff, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to do stuff, too.”

Anaisa Gonzalez, 19, business, and Brandon Nunez, 19, administration of justice

“I think the school does a good job supporting students, and really if they look for help, there’s help for them. I would like to see more people fulfill their initial dreams and then go to another school and not just get lost along the way.”

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“We’ve been together four months. She’s unique.” “He’s cute.”


Kyle Katano, 19, music

Jermell Collins, 19, criminal justice

“My brother [and I] share the same humor. I guess my dad too. Probably not in the best way. My parents are split up and divorced. He was more of an influence to me than my mom.”

“Never give up. You never know how much you can push if you give up.”



Dorely Huerta and Donna Van Gundy, Jehovah’s Witnesses “We volunteer here on Wednesdays. We have a table set up outside the activity center. People approach us and ask questions. People actually ask honest questions.”

Cindy Lopez, library media technician

Tina Nguyen, 20, radiology

Victor Mackey, 35, respiratory care

“One thing I say is that you never stop learning. You learn in different ways from different people, often times the most unlikely, because we think we know it all. We don’t.”

“I met NFL player Nnamdi Asomugha. He was on the Eagles at the time and he took me to Chicago on the scholars program. We spent the week in Chicago and he showed me the whole university life.”

“It feels like I have the biggest test of my life in eight minutes. I have self defense after that.”

Jeremiah Egujie, 19, engineerig

Gary Crawford, groundskeeper

Arnold Lee, 19, biology

“For me, [soccer] calms me down. It takes things out of my head, and it’s a stress reliever. Since high school, I’ve been loving the sport.”

“I’ve been told my lawns look very good. I enjoy working here. It gives me a lot of personal satisfaction.”

“Ten years from now, when I’m 29, I hope to see myself maybe in a laboratory doing research stuff. Maybe I’ll be in a different country.”

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story by Kiana Schmitt photos by Tristan Bellisimo


he opponent was ahead; he had a slight lead. Then the results flipped. Then they flipped again. The gap kept narrowing and then widening. The score was unpredictable up until the very last minute. But this was no basketball game or soccer scrimmage. It was the Nov. 5, 2013 election for El Camino’s Board of Trustees, in which newcomer John Vargas was running against incumbent and current Hawthorne City Councilman Nilo Michelin. “Oh my God, it was intense,” Vargas said. “The polls closed at eight o’clock, and we were calling people until about seven-fifty, calling to make sure they voted.” At 8 p.m., Vargas took a deep breath, put down the phone, and began the waiting game. “I couldn’t talk to anyone on my campaign team because I was so anxious,” he said. “I kept hitting the refresh button on the website every other minute. It was a really close election.” How close? One hundred and forty-three votes and a 2.92 percent margin, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Vargas remembers when the final numbers came in. “When I first got the phone call, I was actually just relieved it was over,” Vargas said. “But then when I finally got home that night, it hit me: I won.” Vargas’ win was sweetened by the fact that it was shared with his older brother, Alex Vargas, who simultaneously ran and won the election for Hawthorne City Council that night. “That was the special part,” Vargas said. “In 2011, I had run for city council and him for mayor — and we both lost. I knew our win this time wasn’t guaranteed, and it would be tough. But I thought it was worth a try.” Vargas’ success signified more than just a tangible culmination in his hard work in education administration. It was also the beginning of a new life chapter and a historic shift in representation for local government in the South Bay; he became the first ever Latin American representative to hold a position on the board of trustees at El Camino.

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Since El Camino’s inception in 1947, it has been deemed as a primarily Hispanic-serving institution, with Hispanic and Latin American students representing the largest demographic of the student body in recent years. According to El Camino’s Annual Fact Book, from the years of 2008-2013, Hispanics averaged about 40 percent of enrolled students, with whites at about 20 percent, African Americans at about 20 percent, and Asians at about 15 percent. Yet until Vargas’ win, there was no racial representation of this fact in El Camino’s board of trustees. “It’s so important for the board to have a variety of representation that is reflective of the community it serves,” Vargas said. “I don’t just represent the student population on campus, but I also represent the surrounding community as well.” And representation was a key factor that contributed to Vargas’ win. According to the El Camino College Administration News website, on Feb. 28, 2012, the board of trustees voted in a 4-1 decision to change the trustee boundaries in the El Camino Community College District that had been in place for 60 years. Citizens now only vote for candidates in their own areas instead of all candidates at large, which means that a Redondo Beach citizen has no say in who represents Inglewood. The change also redrew the district lines so that they were equally distributed; each area now has an average of 108,000 people per district, whereas before, the district numbers varied from approximately 15,000 to 157,000 Prior to serving El Camino, Vargas had been serving the Hawthorne School District as Vice President of the Board of Trustees, which meant he had specific experience in serving the needs of that geographic area, and in serving in elected education administration. His current trustee position represents Area 2 of the El Camino Community College District, which encompasses Hawthorne High,

Vargas, left, speaks with fellow trustee member Ken Brown at the board of trustee meeting on Feb. 17 at El Camino.

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The new district distribution (top) as compared to the old district distrubtion. Courtesy of the El Camino College Administration and the ECCCD Boundary Review Committee.


Leuzinger High and Lawndale High. But even more critical to his success than his geographic location, Vargas said, are his cultural heritage and upbringing. “I was raised in a close-knit Mexican-American household, with my mom, dad, and three older siblings,” Vargas said. “I had a lot of support from my immediate family. My dad always pushed us and supported us to do well in school. He did whatever he needed to do in order to make sure we were successful.” After graduating from the California Math and Science Academy in Carson, Vargas entered the University of California, Los Angeles as a physics major, following in the footsteps of his siblings, who all had pursued science related degrees. But after his first year, Vargas came to a conclusion. “I didn’t like physics,” he said. “At all.” His entire life, Vargas said his father was an active follower of current events, and often discussed politics, Mexican history, and American history with him. Vargas said he always had found those discussions intriguing; he switched to major in political science. Soon after graduating from UCLA, he discovered his interest in education. “I found inspiration in my older brother, Gerard, who was working at the time as Curriculum Specialist for

1988: the Vargas brothers (from left to right) - Alex, Gerard, and John. Photo courtesy of John Vargas.



1983: Vargas, right, celebrates a birthday with with mother, center, Maria Vargas, and sister, Martha Steele, left. Photo courtesy of John Vargas.

Green Dot Public Schools in Los Angeles,” Vargas said. “In 2007, I founded a charter school of my own, the Global Education Academy in South Los Angeles.” Like any newcomer to a field, Vargas’ most significant challenge at the beginning of his career in education administration was his lack of experience.

Present day: Vargas strolls through El Camino’s quad.

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John Vargas looks into a glass window outside the Administration Building in February. Vargas is the college’s first Hispanic trustee member in its 68-year history.

“People would say, ‘You’re so young. How can you have started a charter school at only 27 years old?’” Vargas said. “It intimidated me a bit at first, but it ultimately pushed me to prove to people that I had the skills necessary to do my job.” His current job is “prioritizing El Camino students and how I can best serve them,” Vargas said. Reflecting on his first year in office, Vargas explained that he had been advocating for the continuation and expansion of programs including First Year Experience and the Puente Project at El Camino. The Puente Project is a unique nationwide program whose goal, according to its website, is “to increase the number of Mexican American/Latino students and educationally underserved students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities, earn degrees, and return to the community as leaders and mentors to future generations.” Programs like Puente are especially key, Vargas said, just as “my identity as a Mexican American is important to me – it impacts how I view policies, especially when looking at all the different socioeconomic factors in the community.” A core tenant of the Puente Project is providing more students access to a quality education, which is a value that Vargas strives for. “Education is the most important tool society can use in terms of improvement,” Vargas said. “Not only in terms of wealth, but in safety and quality of life for all residents.” This year, he plans to focus on working with the local high school districts in order to ensure that more students are entering El Camino prepared. “I want to make sure students are utilizing dual enrollment programs while students are still in high school, and are not having to take remedial classes,” Vargas said.

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For high school students or current El Camino students who might be interested in pursuing a career in political science, education, or administration, “It all starts here,” Vargas said. “You have to get involved, get experience and put yourself out there,” he said. He recommends students attend city council meetings, volunteer for local campaigns, or follow the agendas of the monthly board of trustee meetings. “My position at El Camino was a full circle opportunity to give back to a place I was born and raised in. And in my experience,” Vargas added, “the only way to get support within your community is to support them yourself.”#WL

Trustee member John Vargas sits on the stairs in front of the Administration Building with a notebook.




BUILDING CARS AND BREAKING STEREOTYPES Automotive Collision Repair and Painting Instructor Patricia Fairchild discusses life as a woman in the automotive industry story and photos by Jean-Paul Udeh

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parks fly overhead from her angle grinder as she works into the sheet metal, the sound echoing through the shop. She pauses to observe her work, silence sets in. She’s wearing a faded navy blue button down shirt with blue jeans and steel toe boots. Her lips are bare, her eyes without shadow, her nails deprived of polish. Gently gliding the tips of her fingers across the sheet metal, she smiles and continues her work. In an industry dominated by men, Patricia Fairchild, an automotive instructor, didn’t let social norms keep her from something she dreamt of doing as a young girl. Fairchild’s talents led her to EC as an assistant professor in its automotive collision repair and painting program. Looking back at her career in the automotive industry, she recalls a time after receiving her associate degree in automotive collision repair that illustrated how some people viewed women in the business. While working at S&J Chevrolet car dealership painting cars, a male customer pointed out Fairchild’s gender and suggested that she was hired to paint the cars pink. She was so shocked, she didn’t know what to say, and to this day she has not painted a car that color. “Not because of that stupid statement,” she said, “but who would want a pink car?”

Patricia Fairchild, automotive instructor, poses in front of a student’s Chevy truck. She learned her trade at Cerritos College and is now applying it to her teaching at El Camino.

Westonka High School in Minnesota, Fairchild was too scared and shy to take auto repair classes. “There was no way I was going into that room with a bunch of rowdy young boys. No, no,” Fairchild said. At her high school, she said, the auto program had a reputation as a program for students at the bottom of the GPA

"Not because of that stupid statement, but who would want a pink car?" Working with cars is her life passion, even though they were not prized at home. Instead, cars were “just that thing in the driveway that gets you from here to there,” Fairchild said. She didn’t start working on cars until her days as a student at Cerritos College. When she was a student at Mound

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scale. “It was a blue-collar type of class and my family didn’t really want me to go in that direction,” Fairchild said. “Art was OK, but auto body?” After graduating from high school in 1992, Fairchild left home and traveled to California to attend school at Long Beach State where she received her B.A. She was accompanied by the first

love of her life, a 1979 Chevrolet Blazer. “This thing had rust holes so big, you could put your feet through them, like a Flintstone car,” she said. Fairchild didn’t have money to have the work done on the car while attending college, so she learned how to do everything herself. She worked on the upholstery, the wiring, rebuilt the engine, changed the carpet, did the bodywork, gave the car custom paint job and even made the headlight flip around. “It was quite a truck,” she said. Fiairchild said she spent nearly 10 years working on her Blazer, up until it was stolen from outside her Lakewood apartment before it was finished. “Don’t let the pretty trees fool you,” Fairchild said, “it was a bad neighborhood.” While attending Long Beach State, one of her professors, who also taught at Cerritos College, suggested that she take a course at Cerritos in its automotive collision repair program. In 1997, she enrolled. “All the instructors over at Cerritos were great,” Fairchild said. “They really helped me and didn’t mind starting


at the absolute beginning. If I didn’t know a certain tool, they didn’t pair me up with a guy. They taught me what the tool was and how to use it.” Now as an instructor, she applies that same type of atmosphere in her classroom to motivate her students. She first joined EC in 2009, when the Dean of Industry and Technology Stephanie Rodriguez called Cerritos College and spoke with Bob Asperen, a automotive repair instructor, search-

room, but given the choice between teaching or working at a shop, “I’d rather be in my own garage, working on my own cars, and doing the restorations and customs that I do in my free time,” Fairchild said. Teaching is a challenge for Fairchild, because if her students don’t know how to do something to their car, she has to teach them using words. She finds it tricky to use her student’s hands to fix their car.

“They realize, ‘Oh, she really does know what she’s talking about. Who knew?’” ing for someone to teach a auto repair class. Asperen referred Fairchild as one of his top pupils, which landed Fairchild a teaching position at EC. Fairchild has observed the difference between male and female students who take her class. Her male students are typically young and are a “little shy” at first when they see a female instructor. Where as her female students are more likely to bond with her in the beginning, she said. “There aren’t many girls in the automotive field and I was happy that a woman is teaching the class,” Claudia Callejas, 20, automotive collision repair major, said. As the semester progresses, Fairchild builds a close bond with her students, male or female. She said she notices it’s easier for students to ask questions after gaining their trust and the male students start to “relax a bit.” “They realize, ‘Oh, she really does know what she’s talking about. Who knew?’” Fairchild said. Jesus Perez, 20, auto collision repair major wasn’t intimidated when he first learned a female would be teaching the class. “I was actually looking forward to it,” Perez said, “she motivates you to do better.” Fairchild has worked in auto repair shops and taught students in the class-

However, helping students eventually becomes a rewarding experience for Fairchild when the work is complete and she sees the students’ excitement



from her students when their cars turn out “gorgeous.” “Working in shops is challenging. It’s a fast paced industry where time is money and the less time it takes to complete a job well, the more money you make,” Fairchild said. Although she admires the work that shops do, Fairchild considers herself an artist and doesn’t like working under those conditions. She pays attention to detail and would rather take her time and “do it better than anyone else,” when it comes to working on cars. “It earns me a great reputation, but no money,” she said. “I can’t eat a reputation.” When encountering a person who doesn’t approve of women in a non-traditional industry, she encourages students to continue following their hearts and never give up. “Life is too short, do your job, succeed, smile for the camera, and you don’t have to worry about competing all day long for a job you have every right to be in,” Fairchild said.#WL

Fairchild assists her student Angel Cordero, 20, automotive collision repair major, with his car during lab.

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Singing toward a dream story by Rocky Rivera photos by Amira Petrus

______________________________ A man with gray hair and wrinkles was shouting into the bullhorn, targeting his frustration at the students gathered on the Library Lawn, who were selling baked goods to fundraise for the music program at El Camino. “Repent, all homosexuals, fornicators, whoremongers. Everyone’s living in sin,” the old man said. “The day is coming when we will burn in fire and brimstone. You guys are all going to hell if you don’t repent and come to God.” That’s when Tiffany Haile, 31, music major, came up with an idea. The opera singer roared out every word the old man said at triple the decibel level. The strength of her voice overpowered everything that came out of his mouth. Haile’s friend joined in and, with their combined voices, the old man retreated. Since then, and even before then, music has been a large part of Haile’s life. Haile has been studying at El Camino for the past five years. She’s had her moments of adversity while studying including facing homelessness and having to rely on friends’ couches for a place to sleep at night. Haile has also had her triumphs, as she’s become a force for the music program by participating in fundraising and helping recruit students. “She’s attributed with making the program more permanent,” Kenner Bailey, piano accompanist for the music program, said. “Before it was just an extra class, but now it’s an ensemble with repeatability and she really lobbied for that to make it happen.” Haile had a day job as a bus operator when she finished high school. She produced films in her spare time. This artistic outlet was a deviation from her original passion. ______________________________________________________________________

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Tiffany Haile, 31, music major, sings a piece from the Italian play,“Rinaldo� by Handel in the Music Building.

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“I got with this group of people and they cared about [film], so I said ‘I’m going to do this because I don’t care enough about what I like,’” Haile said. “That fell apart. I had my quarter-life crisis and it hit me pretty hard. I had to look at myself and everything kept going back to singing. I wanted to sing.” Haile finally decided to pursue her true passion even if it meant facing uncertainty and a lack of job security. She quit her bus driving job in 2010 in order to pursue her dream. “They now have mid-level management positions and make decent money. People work for them, they work for somebody, and they have good insurance. It was this horrible nightmare of mediocrity,” Haile said. “I had to get away and be honest and happy because this is why I’m alive. To do this. Not to drive buses or make movies.” The tale of how she got to EC was one of chance and maybe even fate. “I lived with my mother who lives

in the South Bay. I said to her, ‘What’s the closest community college by your house?’ She said ‘El Camino.’ Thank God, because that’s where I met my teacher Vicki (Muto), who’s our club adviser. She does the opera workshop class and has been my private teacher,” Haile said. “I just randomly ended up here. I didn’t do any research. If I had gone anywhere else, who knows what would have happened to my instrument?” Once Haile saw a clear path to her true dream, she faced with one of the hardest trials of her life: homelessness. Haile said things did not go well when she moved in with her mom. Her mom was very resentful that she was working all day while Haile went to school so she kicked her daughter out, Haile said. “I was homeless for a while but also coming to EC. Still doing a full load, had no job, was couch surfing and coming to school every day. I get straight



A’s now but I did not get straight A’s that semester.” Haile eventually found work at a grocery story in downtown Los Angeles. She’s since gotten back on her feet and has even bumped into EC faculty at her current day job. Haile plans to transfer to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, classmate Sharda Jones, 24, music major, said said. “Right now, she’s been going [to San Francisco] to train so she gets there either by bus or train,” Jones said. “That shows how dedicated she is. She doesn’t mind driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco.” Haile’s friends say her passion for music can be seen every day. “She’s so gung-ho on music and how it needs to be the forefront in a lot of things,” Jones said. “Music is in everything. It’s in math, English, different languages, history, it’s in everything. Her passion is why people follow her.” #WL

El Camino piano accompanist Kenner Bailey and Tiffany Haile go over a rhythm pattern in the sheet music.

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GETTING A TASTE OF THE LOCAL FARMERS MARKET The scent of fresh produce fills the air of the tent-lined aisles, bright colors from oranges, bell peppers and strawberries are almost impossible to miss. The Torrance Certified Farmers Market has been a heavily attended community event for 30 years. The Tuesday market, first opening in 1985, started with 20 growers. In 1992, the Saturday market opened and quickly grew with 45 growers. Today, both markets have an average of 65 growers selling their fresh produce. Farmers markets provide the public with the “real thing” and provide a place for farmers and vendors to sell their crops and products straight to the general public. Farmers from San Luis Obispo County with strawberries to farmers from Imperial County with broccoli and onions all flock to the farmers market every week. The Farmers Market isn’t only about fresh produce. One end is a food court and hosts live entertainment. Local restaurants have booths set up selling hot, ready-to-eat meals. The market is located at Wilson Park at Crenshaw Boulevard and Jefferson Street. The market is open year-round every Tuesday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. #WL - John Fordiani

photos by John Fordiani and Amira Petrus

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Yellow and red bell peppers are sold by the pound at Torrance Farmers Market.

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Much of the produce sold at the market, located at Wilson Park, is organically grown.

There are many vendors selling floral arrangements throughout the market.

Below, from left to right: 1. Farm fresh eggs are sold at the Torrance Farmers Market. Cash registers are not found at the farmers market, so calculators are common throughout the vendor tents. 2. Not only is fresh produce sold at the farmers market, a variety of beans is also sold. 3. Cortez Farms sells blueberries at and travels to all South Bay farmers markets.


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1. Honey sticks are sold for four for a dollar. Several flavors including root beer and cinnamon are available for purchase. 2. Fresh picked lemons sell at the farmers market for five for one dollar. 3. French macaroons from Munch Bakery are sold at the farmers market every week. 4. The market has been a community event for 30 years. Located at Wilson Park, the twice a week event attracts vendors from throughout Southern California to sell their fresh picked produce. 5. Owner of Munch Bakery Melanie Santos packs a box of macaroons for a customer at the farmers market. 6. Fresh strawberries from Cortez Farm’s in San Luis Obispo are sold at the market.


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LIFE INTERRUPTED story by Tiana Smith photos by Patricklee Hamilton

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Veteran and student Adrion Franklin, 26, waits for his son, Adam, 7, outside Purche Avenue Elementary School in Gardena.

Standing in front of his apartment door, he stopped before turing the doorknob. Despite the eviction notice posted on the door, he couldn’t bring himself to believe that his mom hadn’t paid the rent for the past three months. Inside of the apartment, he found his mom sitting on the couch, unaware of the letter’s existence. Through her sobs, he said she admitted to him that she had stopped paying the $1,200 rent. He stood consumed by his mom’s confession not knowing whether to comfort her or get mad. She apologized, told him she loved him, and handed him $50. Three days later, the 19-year-old was homeless. Seven years later, Adrion Franklin, 26, business major, has since turned his life around by pursuing a degree in business administration at El Camino, becoming part of a growing clothing line called Dime A Dozen and working hard to be a good example for his 7 year old son. “I felt like at the time I was living the good life,” Franklin said of those days years ago. “I had a girlfriend, a car, my son was just born, I had somewhere to live while going to college and then suddenly it all just vanished.” As a child, Franklin lived in various apartments with picture-less frames, sofa beds and a mom who was in and out of his life, he said. With a Snickers bar to lure him in, Franklin remembers

being in elementary school and getting regular visits from social workers asking him questions about his mom. “At eight years old, I didn’t know what my mom was doing. I was unaware,” he said. “She used to be on drugs when I was little, so I used to go back and forth from her house to my aunt’s house.” While living with his mom, Franklin understood that also meant moving in with whomever her boyfriend was at the time. He can still recall the days when he and his younger brother Adam would have to stay behind with his mom’s boyfriend as she went to work. One day in particular, when he was eight and Adam was two, has always haunted Franklin. While Adrion would quietly stay in his room fixated on his toys, Adam would cry for the comfort of his mom. “Adam was only two, so he would cry all the time, and my mom’s boyfriend couldn’t handle it so he would hit on him to try and get him to stop crying and that night he just hit on him one too many times,” Franklin said. “Adam didn’t wake up the next day.” Franklin remembers the morning when his little brother died from blunt force trauma. A morning filled with police officers and firefighters and a mother in shock, Frankin at

“I felt like at the time I was living the good life. I had a girlfriend, a car, my son was just born, I had somewhere to live while going to college and then suddenly it all just vanished.”

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eight, didn’t know what death meant. Franklin said he doesn’t remember much of what happened to his mom’s ex-boyfriend, but he does remember tesitfying in court with his mom which, he said, resulted in her boyfriend being sentenced to prison. Attempts to reach Franklin’s mother were made by “Warrior Life” but were declined. At a young age, Franklin learned what a huge imprint losing a family member would leave on his life. He didn’t realize, as he sat in a church pew with his family members for Adam’s funeral, that would be the last time he would see him. The death of his little brother came full circle for Franklin when he was 19 and found out his girlfriend at the time was pregnant. He remembered Adam’s name echoing in his mind as he waited on the couch for his girlfriend to come out of the bathroom with the pregnancy test. Though he didn’t know anything about being a father, one thing was for certain. He would name his son Adam to bring smiles back onto his family members’ faces. Becoming a parent at 19 didn’t scare him. He had everything he needed: a girlfriend who he loved, his mom who was clean from drugs for a while, and a safe place to live. That little pink plus sign on the white stick brought his family together. Soon, Franklin’s fantasy life came to a crashing halt when his mom fell back into her drug habit and lost their apartment. He went from sleeping in his bed to living out of his car, his trunk becoming his closet. He went from being able to see his son Adam on a daily basis to only seeing him when his ex-girlfriend would let him. Two months in, Franklin soon got tired of living a life that seemed unproductive and leaned toward help from family members. After getting himself back up on his two feet, Franklin found himself outside of a recruitment office enlisting in the Navy. “(The Navy) wasn’t my last resort when I joined but like an escape to see what else was out there,” Franklin said. “(Joining) was the first step I needed to take in order to change my life.” When he first joined the Navy, Franklin wanted to find the easiest exit route because he was scared of what was going to come next. Knowing nothing about the military, he contemplated if it was the right choice to “risk my life to change it.” After a few spontaneous forearm tattoos hoping they would be a ticket out of his commitment, he still had to go out on deployment. Franklin realized, though, as he was still trying to figure out his life, he had a son to set an example for. The Air Force turned Franklin down for having a child born out of wedlock, but his experiences in the Navy pushed him to become the father he’d never had. While out on deployment, he kept friends and family posted on where the ship was headed next. Childhood friend Jonathan Goosby found it hard to believe the once shy boy he had played basketball with on the courts was now out exploring the world. “At first I didn’t agree with Adrion choosing to enlist, but now I see what a great man he has become not just for himself but for his son as well,” Goosby said.

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Franklin, 26, business administration, smiles at his son, Adam, 7 outside Purche Avenue Elementary School in Gardena.

Being in the military allowed Franklin to once again see the goal he had as a teen, which was to get a college degree. After four years in the Navy, an environment where having a degree dictated the amount of respect received, Franklin’s next stop was El Camino. Getting back into the hang of school wasn’t an easy transition for Franklin at age 26. After taking a few general education courses on the ship, as well as the help of the Veterans Resource Center, he was prepared to return. The Veterans Resource Center isn’t just a place where veterans can hang out in their free time or print out their homework. The center is here to help student veterans meet their educational goals, Martha Angel, student services specialist at EC, said. Before he knew it, Franklin became part of a growing clothing line called Dime A Dozen. Trying to enlarge the brand, Franklin and his friends are meeting with stores like Shiek and Millennium hoping they will consider adding Dime A Dozen to their stores. Currently, the group sells their clothing on their website and as well as at a store in Old Torrance. Though Franklin knows being part of the clothing line won’t bring him instant success, being surrounded by friends and family he feels like now he’s at the right place at the right time. “As I grew up, I realized that’s just life and I grew up in the church so I believe in God and I just felt like everything happened for a reason,” Franklin said. “Of course I was scared at the moment and I cried but I just had to get over it.” #WL




American dream ...or nightmare? story by Kiana Schmitt photos by John Fordiani and Jorge Villa


atch out, he has a bomb in his head!” Those were the first English words spoken to Hamoun Dolatshahi on his first day of high school in the United States. “It was meant as a joke,” Dolatshahi said, “but it was anything but funny. Instead, it reflected the racial discrimination and Islamophobia I’ve experienced my whole life.” Dolatshahi’s father is Persian and his mother is an Iranian Kurd. According to the Associate for Diplomatic Studies and Training, the Kurds make up the fourth largest ethnic group in West Asia, and since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, have long been enduring persecution and genocide from forces in the Middle East. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) website reports that in 1987, led by Saddam Hussein, “the Iraqi government [carried] out the genocidal Anfal campaign against Kurdistan’s civilians, of mass summary executions and disappearances, widespread use of chemical weapons, destruction of some 2,000 villages and of the rural economy and infrastructure,” leaving an estimated death toll of 180,000 Kurds. In their native country of Iran, Dolatshahi said his mother experienced extreme discrimination because of her ethnic

Hamoun Dolatshashi, 21, communications major, is an aspiring advocate against social issues, including racism and injustices toward people of different religions and races.

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identiy. After being fired from her job “because she spoke out, defended [the Kurdish] people,” Dolatshahi said, “my family’s safety was left to [a] corrupt government.” The Dolatshahis knew that they could no longer continue a life in Iran. “We fled to Turkey,” Dolatshahi said, “where I found some Kurdish friends my age. They helped teach me Turkish and Kurdish,” in addition to the Farsi he spoke as his native tongue. “After a year, and with help from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I came to South Torrance High School, in 2011, knowing very limited English other than the few formal greetings and phrases taught at most primary and secondary schools in Middle East,” Dolatshahi said. “I would say ‘How do you do?’ and get weird looks from my classmates.” An even greater language-based obstacle was that of transferring Dolatshahi’s academic history. “South High’s administration took one look at my [Iranian and Turkish] transcripts and told me, ‘We can’t read this,’ with a blank stare,” he said. He then paid $160 to have his records translated officially by the International Transcript International Transcript Authentication and Evaluation Service. However, “because the transcripts used a 1-20 scale instead of letter grades, the ad-

"They gave me ‘C’ grades for all of my classes. I really had gotten mostly As and Bs."

ministration said that they still weren’t entirely sure about the foreign grading system,” Dolatshahi said. “They gave me ‘C’ grades for all of my classes,” Dolatshahi said. “I really had gotten mostly As and Bs.” Despite the fact that he entered the school as a senior and had been taking calculus classes in Iran, Dolatshahi was forced to complete basic algebra in addition to history, health, and English as a second language classes before he was allowed to graduate. Similar experiences occur within the El Camino community. Leo Rachman, program coordinator of the International Student Program, said that proper evaluation of foreign credits is a problem with which international students often struggle. “America is very decentralized; every university and system is different,” Rachman said. “Whatever fits one thing might not fit the other—not just in education but in culture as well.” Cultural differences are something that Dolatshahi also found difficult to adapt to initially. “One thing I remember,” Dolatshahi said, “was when [a classmate] thanked me for letting her take my seat so she could sit next to her friend. She said ‘Thanks so much, give me a hug!’” Instead of immediately engaging in the embrace, he just stood there, frozen. “I had never hugged a girl before besides my mom and grandma,” Dolatshahi said. In Iran, the majority of schools are still segregated according to the gender and sex binary; there are separate schools for men and women. “You wouldn’t have school with the opposite sex until college,” Dolatshahi said. “The closeness and openness, the culture, are what I miss he most,” Dolatshahi said. “In my culture, it is collectivist.

Hamoun Dolatshahi, 21, communications major, is an aspiring advocate against social issues including racism and injustices toward people of different religions and race.

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It is not individualistic. We take care of each other; we are careful not to hurt other people’s feelings or make them feel shame.” A discrepancy between Iranian culture and American culture became clear to Dolatshahi when he first started making friends at South High School with American males his age. “I had to do a project with these three other boys, who later became my best friends, and we were deciding on where to do it,” Dolatshahi said. After suggesting they do it at the house of one of the other classmates, the classmate replied, “Sure, we can go to my house — I don’t care.” “And I was initially offended,” Dolatshahi said, “because I thought it meant: ‘I don’t care about you, I don’t care about anything.’” Another cultural difference Dolatshahi learned was about the way American teenage males interacted. “I realized that it is common in Iran to greet your male friends with a kiss on each cheek, but you would never do that in American classroom, because of homophobia,” he said. Homophobia is a phenomenon that Stacey Allen, a professor of sociology at El Camino, knows all too well; she teaches students about it in her

treats women badly. Are you sexist?” “People mix Muslim countries together and assume they are all the same.” Dolatshahi said. “Any negative thing they know about [Muslim culture], they will assume.” Another El Camino student with firsthand experience of people making assumptions about Islam is 20-year-old Sarah Desmond, undecided major and event coordinator of the Muslim Student Association on campus. “When people look at me, they automatically assume I am Muslim because I am wearing a hijab, and then they assume I am Arab or Pakistani,” Desmond said. “It doesn’t surprise me. The media puts so much emphasis on Middle Eastern countries, people internalize it; they think all Muslims are Middle Eastern and that’s that,” she said. Desmond is of Muslim faith, but she is not of Middle Eastern descent at all. “I am half Asian and half American,” Desmond said. “My mother is Malaysian and my father is American, Irish and German.” Desmond has been wearing her hijab since she was 12, and she is adamant about letting people know that “I made the decision [to wear it] myself. There’s often a misconception that your father



as I walk in, ‘I saw you on TV today.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said, ‘They bombed something. Where is your hat?’ Meaning a turban.” Dolatshahi said. “He ordered food. I take it to him, he’s very drunk, and he makes a big scene, screaming, ‘Watch out, the terrorist is coming!’ He thought it was funny.” In response, Dolatshahi remained professional. “I just kept doing my job. But in my head, it was a reality check that racism, that these people, exist in society.” Dolatshahi said. “I could hear three racist comments in one day because of something that had nothing to do with me or where I am from. [The bombers] weren’t even from Iran. People have these negative thoughts. They might not talk always about it. But they have them.” Although they are complex problems that can never truly be solved, “the most simple answer to such discrimination is getting to know people who are different from yourself,” Allen said. Desmond agrees with Allen’s sentiments. “There’s a point in everyone’s life where you accept who you are, who you want to be, and just start smiling.” Desmond said. “You smile at people,

“People have these negative thoughts. They might not always talk about them. But they have them.” Women’s Studies and Social Problems courses. “Homophobia, racism, Islamophobia. They are all prevalent social problems,” Allen said. All three of these social problems followed Dolatshahi from Iran to the United States. Examples of this started with classmates’ questions of “Do you still ride camels in Iran?” and “Saudi Arabia has really cruel punishments and

forced it on you – but it was my choice. I did it to please my Lord.” The most serious experience with racism and Islamophobia, Dolatshahi, said, was an incident that occurred with customers at his previous job working at a restaurant. “It was the day after the Boston Marathon bombing. I came into work, and a regular customer, an older white man who is an educated doctor says to me

you be kind, generous, caring – an example of how you want others to treat you. And you start meeting people that are more willing to learn about you.” “That is the most fundamental way that we can dispel stereotypes or myths or misconceptions that we have of others.” Allen said. “What fuels fear, mistrust, and misunderstanding is people not taking the time to learn, to get to know people different from themselves

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And to get to know Dolatshahi, now 21 and a communication studies major, requires a look into his road to El Camino. “I helped care for my little sisters, seven and 11, because my mom worked full-time,” he said. “I walked them to school an hour each way every day.” During weekdays, “I’d stay after school for hours, translating every English word I didn’t know, or asking my teachers for help.” At his part-time job, Dolatshahi started as a dishwasher and eventually worked his way up to server. In the past few years, Dolatshahi has worked enough and saved enough to buy both himself and his mother a car. His mother, who is also currently enrolled at El Camino, is pursuing a degree in psychology while working full-time as a babysitter and

“You know it’s for the best. I am very thankful to be here.”

kindergarten assistant. In Iran, she was running her own kindergarten and working as a school therapist for more than six years. Yet when she came to the United States, her foreign degree was not accepted. “Here, you have to prove that you’re capable. You have to follow the American way,” Dolatshahi said. Thus, she essentially had to start over. “Start from the beginning, from zero. That’s what we did,” Dolatshahi said. And even today, he is affected by memories of home. “Every move, every immigration, you have this mentality of it being a ‘new beginning,’ Dolatshahi said. “At the time, you only see the things you leave behind – your friends, your family, your girlfriend, your connections. But you know it’s for the best. I am very thankful to be here.” And for Dolatshahi, one of those adventures is his dream of higher education in America. As he hopefully awaits acceptance from UCLA, he explains that his end goal is becoming a lawyer in order “to help others who have experienced Islamophobia and injustice at the hands of the government— like my family.” “My end goal is justice,” Dolatshahi said. “To fight for it.”#WL

Dolatshahi speaks in the middle of a debate round early in the spring 2015 semester.

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you Think that’s mean? How do ? think “that’s so gay” sounds Hurtful. So, knock it off.

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the art of the

bronze p o ur Art 83ABCD, Bronze Casting, is a three-unit sculpting class that has been taught at El Camino since the early ‘70s. Professor Russell McMillin teaches the course. McMillin has worked in bronze casting since his undergraduate career at Sonoma State University. His students typically have three projects that demand a long process of sculpting a wax object, encasing the wax object in a ceramic shell, and burning out the wax in the foundry; the wax is stuccoed with sand many times throughout the process to give strength to the ceramic shell that must withstand a 115-degree mold and 2100-degree bronze. This process takes about four to eight weeks. The purpose of these projects is to sharpen students’ sculpting and objectivity skills that can be used in industrial design, toy design and in casting aluminum. Each spring semester, the class has an open house where its work is displayed in the Art Gallery. #WL - Elizbeth Aviles photos by Gilberto Castro

Mercedes Hunter, 25, art major, returns a cup holding molten bronze back into a furnace after completing one round of pouring the molten metal into her classmates’ sculpture molds.

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Colt Christopher, 31, art major, makes some last minute touch-ups to his skull sculpture mold before molten bronze is poured on it later.

Christopher continues touch-ups on his skull sculpture.

Hunter pours molten bronze into her class’ sculpture molds.

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matters story by Aryn Hicks photos by John Fordiani

The sound of a loud duck quacking drew 5 year old Enrique Mora-Tora to the bathroom of his home in San Pedro where he found his father Carlos “Choto” Mora practicing his saxophone. As he watched his father play, Mora-Tora said he was intrigued by the sound. “I was really scared when I first heard my dad play the sax,” Mora-Tora said. “I had never heard that instrument in my life.” When his father stopped playing, Mora-Tora said he missed the sound of the instrument and that was when he decided he wanted to learn how to play for himself. Mora-Tora started playing the saxophone when he was 12 years old. When he attended San Pedro High School, he became involved in the concert the marching bands. When he came to El Camino, Mora-Tora said he was introduced to jazz music in his ensemble class. He said he fell in love with it. Here, he began to dive into the sound and musicality of jazz. “As soon as I heard jazz music and I started doing a little digging, a little studying. I [got] really interested and I wanted to pursue it,” Mora-Tora said. Mora-Tora comes from a musical family. His younger brother, Carlos, who goes to L.A. Harbor College, is majoring in computer engineering and plays the trumpet and his father plays with his band and occasionally Mora-Tora joins his father on stage. “I feel very proud of him,” his father said. “ He’s my [role] model. I always wanted to do what he is doing right now. I always dreamed

Enrique Mora-Tora poses with his saxophone outside the Math, Business and Allied Health Building. Mora- Tora is part of the El Camino Jazz Band and has been playing the saxophone since he was 12 years old.

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about being somebody, and hopefully he will get the chance. He is very talented and responsible and I am very proud of my son.” Some of Mora-Tora’s musical influences include saxophonists such as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly. He also likes contemporary musicians like Dave Libeman and Joe Lavono. “The richness of their tone when they play makes me really interested to see how and what they do when they are playing,” Mora-Tora said. “It’s really interesting to see that everybody has their own sound.” In addition to playing the saxophone, he plays the clarinet and the flute. He credits his teachers at EC, especially Chris Mello who died in 2014, Dane Teter and Alan Chan who have taught him discipline and how to develop and approach music. “I’ve watched his growth as a musician,” Dane Teter, director of instrumental music, said. “His determination to be successful is one of the greatest things about him.” In the jazz band, directed by Chan, Mora-Tora is the section leader. Chan said Mora-Tora helps his fellow section members in the jazz band practice. He practices with them and helps other junior members in the band develop



“I always set big goals in life and the life of a jazz musician is never ending.” their skills. “He really gives a strong leadership to the saxophone section and he really helps the band,” Chan said. In five years, he says he sees himself graduating from a university and he would like to start his own quintet and play at shows and gigs. Mora-Tora would like to transfer to Long Beach State and major in music, specifically jazz studies. “I always set big goals in life and the life of a jazz musician is never ending,” Mora-Tora said. “There’s always new things I can learn. There’s always new approaches to something old or to something new. I want to strive to be up really high and learn as most as I can in this life we have.” #WL

Enrique Mora-Tora plays a flute at a jazz band practice in the Marsee Auditorium. Mora-Tora, who also plays the saxophone and the clarinet, started playing the saxophone at 12 years old after seeing his father play.

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MORE THAN YOUR AVERAGE GREEN THUMB GANG story by Celine West photos by Tristan Bellisimo and Gilberto Castro

These plants were sold at last semester’s drought workshop in order to raise money for the Horticultural Club. The plants are all drought-friendly, meaning they require less water than most plants.

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When his grandmother told him if he put something in the ground and nourished it, it would come back, he decided to test her theory, so he started growing his own potatoes at just 4 years old. He soon found that what she told him was true. A tiny potato plant had began to push itself out of the soil and eventually blossomed into a leafy bush with new potatoes growing underneath. He’s been hooked ever since. “My grandma told me to go into that garden and grow something,” Reginald Fagan, 56, president of the El Camino Horticulture and Environmental Club, said. “Relating to the land gave me an opportunity to calm my nerves. I realized that I can put something in the ground and care for it, and it will come back.” The club has a knack for garnering interest and encouraging participation from the EC community and beyond. The club strongly urges community involvement, as they are extremely hands on in their approach. From the grounds maintenance personnel to the Special Resources Center – even the music department – there is always a way for people to get involved in environmental stewardship, Fagan said. “Everyone has some gardening experience somewhere in their life,” Fagan said. “We want to pull it out. Everyone has a story.” Fagan explained that people often had not fully articulated their interest in gardening and the environment until the club had forged a relationship with them. “We want to reach out into the community and make connections,” Fagan said. “We’re a diverse community of different cultural backgrounds. A young lady once told us, ‘I want to be a farmer like my mother and auntie, even though I am going to school to become a nurse.’”

“Everyone has some gardening experience somewhere in their life. We want to pull it out. Everyone has a story.” Regarding his work as a kind of ministry, Fagan shared his experiences on how he has come to care for the environment and become a steward of nature. His hope is that many others may uncover their inherent relationship to nature and discover new ways to reconnect with the environment. “When we were young we used to go to the park. We didn’t have to spend a lot of money. It was our true nature just to have fun. Life was simple. Relationships were stronger and bonds were stronger,” he said. “Technology, a lot of things we have now, has stripped us from these skills.”



English major Melissa Currie-White takes a closer look at some of the succulent plants that were for sale at the event last fall.

Members of the club stress that though it may seem contrary to many of the beliefs that are shared today, people are not separate from nature. Anthony Rhone, 20, English major and member of the club, said that certain aspects of society can wear people down as they become overwhelmed with ideas. He stressed that it can be difficult for people to interact with others when they do not already know how. He also said that, in the same way, it can be difficult for people to handle nature if they do not already know how. Samson Lozano, 22, Earth and biological sciences major and member of the club, said that when people are not taught that the world is dynamic, from the smallest ant to the largest whale, they are not going to see it and they are not going to care. The result, he said, is ignorance. “Ultimately, people do get interested. It is our true investment. But civilization can distract us from our true nature,” Fagan said. Many members arrived early on a Saturday morning last fall to get the soil ready for the new drought-tolerant garden located next to the Student Activities Center. The installment of a drought garden was accompanied by a drought

#warriorlife | spring 2015 | 37

workshop, an event that took place the following Monday at the same location. The workshop featured exhibitors who showcased water conservation products while Climate Change advocates and representatives from Water Resource Management educated the EC community and guests on water conservation. Outside, students and faculty visited product booths and bought drought tolerant plants. “I like how we are mostly hands-on in dealing with situations like when we dug up all the grass,” Julian Valle, 26, psychology major and club member, said. “It’s to help with the environment, not just us. El Camino is part of California and California is in a drought.” Fagan shared that one way he hopes to create a bridge with the larger community is by creating an event in which kids, particularly middle school students, could participate. He envisions the possibility of independent artists reaching out to schools for participation in a drought education workshop. “The kids could draw their answers to questions such as ‘What do you think the drought was all about?’ while an art coordinator could pick the top 10 pictures and award prizes. All of the kids’ drawings could be posted where EC students would see them. It would be a motivator,” he said. Members also are knowledgeable about the horticultural and botanical background of El Camino and its surrounding communities. Gardena was a berry city, for example. “This area had a heritage and it makes sense that the college ties into that heritage,” Fagan said. “We’ll do what we

can to keep it going.” Many members of the club have a scholarly and philosophical approach to their work. Their intellectual and spir itual perspective serve to guide their work and vision. Rhone explained that some people view nature as a tool. He said that while nature is useful in its own right, it is impossible for nature to just be a tool. “People have a mindset,” Rhone said. “But nature is a self-functioning system.” Fagan stressed that the true nature of humanity is to be attuned to our surroundings, that human beings are caretakers that are to work alongside with Mother Nature. He said that people have had a mistaken tendency to believe that they are at the center of nature. Since the very beginning, he explained, we had a tendency to try to conquer nature instead of working with it. “If we harm the balance and natural rhythm, we are going to be in disharmony. But if we try to get in tune with that rhythm, life will get a little easier for us,” Fagan said. Fagan has noticed that when people’s habits become shaped by modern conveniences, they begin to lose touch with an inherent sense of their connection to nature. “This is something I see as special. I saw a tree in my backyard and thought, ‘That’s a living thing.’ It was blowing in the wind and it had some sort of awe to it,” Fagan said. “How do you get people to step back and say ‘God gave us something special and we’re stewards.’ If we take care of it, this could be a really nice place.”#WL

Rain Bird employee Jim Dansby demonstrates water efficient sprinklers to attendees at a water conservation event last semester.

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Sean Pfister, 23, general education major, works on removing grass outside the Student Services Center. Pfister was volunteering for the day. The club is working on projects to remove plants which heavily rely on water with plants that are more drought-friendly.




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Warrior Life Spring 2015  

The spring 2015 edition of Warrior Life, El Camino College's annual magazine.

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