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el sol magazine

Summer Edition 2012

el sol Summer 2012 Volume 2 Issue 1

Featured Stories •

03 Life after near death

After a series of terrifying experiences, resilient Deana Alonso is back teaching Spanish and inspiring students at SWC. •

15 One man strike force Super athlete and activist Joey Chavez is playing for the gold in London this summer as a striker on the U.S. Paralympian soccer team.

el sol magazine

39 Wrong place, wrong time

At 13 years of age, Ulysses Castrejon was murdered at a family party in Tijuana by drug cartel killers. The San Ysidro community is still in shock over the loss of the cheerful teenager. An exclusive interview with his mother. •

11 Blossoming talent

43 The race of her life

Recording artist Jessica Lerner is taking the country by storm who with her sweet melodies and powerful voice. Summer Edition 2012

25 Quiet but not silent

After being imprisoned by the INS for five harrowing days, Ayded Reyes won the conference cross county championships in dramatic fashion.

A battle with the state pulls Raul Carranza away from UCLA and his independence.

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Summer 2012 Volume 2 issue 1


WRITERS Amanda L. Abad Alexis Dominguez Serina Duarte Albert Fulcher Pablo Gandara Marshall Murphy Ernesto Rivera Angela Van Ostran Cody Yarbro Mary York

PHOTOGRAPHERS Jiamay Austria Serina Duarte Pablo Gandara Albert Fulcher Marshall Murphy Angela Van Ostran Omar Villapando Misael Virgen Cody Yarbro Mary York

DESIGNERS Amanda L. Abad Pablo Gandara Diana Inocencio Cody Yarbro

COPY EDITOR Angela Van Ostran




eroes walk among us. Supermen and superwomen who look just like everyone else perform feats of wonder in the recording studio, athletic field, classroom, field of battle and the public arena of ideas. They are battered and bruised but never, ever give up. Heroes are not born, they are made by their choices and decisions on difficult situations. Heroes are regular people who do not back down when adversity roars. Heroes are dragon slayers who win their battles with courage, talent, intelligence, passion and love. Meet the heroes of this edition of el sol. We are sure you will be inspired as we were.

Faces of Immigration

Amanda L. Abad, EIC


13 Greatness in her DNA

19 Geriatric Jaguar

Brilliant Professor of Biology Dr. Nouna Bakhiet is a folksy force in STEM education.

Humble, homeless but hardy, 55-year-old Dave Wade is the oldest student to ever play football at SWC.

31 Peaceful echo of Cesar Chavez

21 Borderland River Styx

Marcha Migrante VII visits the final resting place of human rights hero Cesar Chavez during a long journey for human rights.

Boca Rio, the mouth of the Tijuana River, is full of trash and dead animals, severely polluting huge stretches of Imperial Beach and Playas de Tijuana.

Photo Spread

27 Athletes on a roll

07 Na koa ikaika The Outrigger Canoe Club, Student Veteran Organization and the ABLE Club pull off a splash Warriors on the Water Luau.

The Adaptive Sports Foundation holds an inspiring sports camp at SWC that freed the inner athlete in dozen of children and young adults.

35 In the footsteps of heroes Soldiers and civilians gather in New Mexico to reenact the Bataan Death March of WWII.

Dr. Max Branscomb No part of el sol may be reproduced in any form by any means without prior written consent from the Southwestern College Sun el sol Magazine. For permission request contact

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Life after



April Fool’s Day was a good day for Professor of Spanish Deana AlonsoPost. It was her first day back teaching after eight months of terrifying illness and tenacious recovery. It was a perilous journey and not the first time she overcame catastrophic lifechanging events. A native of Mexico City, Alonso came to Southwestern College in 1979, took English as a Second Language and earned an associate degree in mathematics. She made Southwestern home again in 1995, this time as a newly-minted professor. 3 el sol Summer 2012

Within a year of her arrival an unthinkable tragedy hit. Her husband, the brilliant Professor of Engineering Dr. Costas Lyrintzis, was murdered along with two faculty colleagues by a deranged student gunman at San Diego State University in 1996 in a crime that shocked the nation. In an instant Alonso was a widow and a single mother of a one-year-old daughter. She dyed her hair black and solemnly mourned her husband for a year. Then, during a stirring address at an SDSU memorial for Lyrintzis on the

one-year anniversary of his murder, she pledged to get on with her life. Alonso rebounded to become one of SWC’s most talented and respected professors. She authored two successful textbooks and was voted Outstanding Faculty Member. Her daughter Sofia was growing up a spunky and outgoing personality like her mother and a kind intellectual like her father. Alonso was happily re-married to Frank Post, an SWC adaptive computer specialist with Disability Support Services. Life was good for Alonso when

horror struck again last year in August, shattering her life and leaving her new husband, family and the campus community in shock. She underwent emergency surgery for an aneurism that burst, spreading blood through her brain. After days of searing headaches, nightmares and hallucinations, a perforated colon led to a second surgery, triggering a stroke. Waking up the next morning, she found herself in terror. “I could not speak,” she said. “I could think in Spanish, but I could not speak a word of it.” Even with the headaches and hallucinations she said she possessed all her thinking and considerable language abilities, but the stroke prevented her brain from connecting her language center to her speech center. She slowly began to speak in small words, but only in English. “I really panicked,” she said. “Inside my brain was fully working, but I could not tell anyone. I realized I was stuttering and sounding like an idiot.” Her sister, Professor of Spanish Esther Alonso, said it began during a trip to Italy. She said her sister had problems with dizziness and had tripped twice. “We just thought she wasn’t paying attention,” she said. “When her husband found out that she had had dizzy spells and fallen, he insisted that Deana go to the hospital and find out why these things were happening. The neurologist saw her and told her we need to have surgery tomorrow.” Alonso’s doctor found a ninemillimeter aneurism with a weird shape and a daughter aneurism attached. He told her if it burst she had a 30 percent chance of living and an unknown chance of keeping all her abilities. Deciding to go with the surgery, she wrote her family and colleagues hoping for the best. “After having someone die in my life, I know how difficult it is to deal with,” she said. “So I got all my papers in check, gave them to my husband, told him to take care of my daughter in case anything happened.” Alonso said Post never left her side.

Without him she said she might not have survived. Post did everything she needed, even changing the dressings of her open wound three times a day for four months while they waited for her colostomy reversal. “My husband was an angel,” said Alonso. “So I believe I had an angel up above and down here looking after me. But it was tough.” Behind the scenes, headed into

surgery, Esther Alonso said that it was Dinorah Guadiana-Costa, chair of world languages, who did most of the work to keep the classes going, relieving the family to face the crisis at hand. “It is amazing how fast you can solve problems when it is imperative,” said Esther Alonso. “It was one day to the next without any preparation. That tells you how fantastic the department is.” el sol Summer 2012 4

Guadiana-Costa said she did what she had to. “When she was going in for surgery, no one was ready for how things turned out,” she said. “That is, that her aneurysm would burst in the middle

Alonso. Guadiana-Costa said it seemed impossible to start the new semester without Deana. “I felt like a ghost coming back to classes—invisible, empty and lost,” she said. “I went through the motions but they were rote and totally meaningless. She just had to get better.” Deana Alonso did get better, but only after several setbacks. With the horrible headaches and hallucinations she thought people were there to sell her body parts and believed her husband wanted her deported. Even though she had just gone through the “hell of brain surgery,” her perforated abdomen could kill her, meaning another surgery. “I kept thinking, ‘This cannot be the end of me here’,” she said. “It was hard to have so much fear, but I did not break down. I was very strong. The whole time I was in the hospital there was always someone with me, even every night. I was not alone for a minute.” After the stroke, she said she felt lost and the loss of her native tongue scared her most of all. She said little by little, she spoke more English and eventually the Spanish came back. “When I began speaking in Spanish it came stronger and better than the English,” she said. “I believe it is because it is my native language and always a part of my life. It was amazing that I began in English, but it was scary because I teach Spanish.” Esther Alonso said Deana was finally able to come home while waiting to have the colostomy reversed. While Alonso recovered from the surgery and the stroke, she started feeling ill again. She went back to the hospital for five more days, once again faced with deadly consequences. “She had a bacterial infection that ruins your stomach and intestinal lining caused by Deana Alonso is the recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Award and author of two the colon surgery,” said Esther successful textbooks. 5 el sol Summer 2012

of surgery and she would remain on the verge of death for weeks.” Anguished day and night by her condition, Guadiana-Costa said she could not stop worrying about Sofia, Frank and her dear friend Esther

Alonso. “It was very dangerous and painful for Deana. She had lost weight through the prior surgeries, but this was the one where she lost the most. When released from the hospital, she started climbing out of the hole all over again.” Alonso said it took about three months before she began feeling normal. Going to a speech therapist with a colostomy bag, she said she came out of the hospital “like an old rag, walking with a walker.” She said she lost more than 30 pounds on top of wounds from two surgeries and a severe infection that set her back. “It was very difficult, both physically and emotionally. I was just so depressed,” she said. “Then they could not reconnect me because I had a huge tumor in my uterus.” It took four months before the two surgeons could work together. During that time she got a huge cyst on her ovary, once again in extreme pain and facing another surgery. She said she was amazed that her current health benefits covered it all. “But that surgery was good and I felt normal,” she said. “It was hard, but now I think my brain is between 95 and 98 percent back.” For 20 days faculty fed her family, Alonso said. Each day someone would bring food to feed the family for the day. She said her 76-year-old aunt came to take care of her twice after the first and third surgeries. “My aunt is a swimmer and has won medals in her division,” she said. “And she is in better shape than anyone. She would help me bathe. She made me walk every day, even when I started at about 10 steps at a time. Now I walk three miles every single day.” Esther Alonso said it was “Deana’s personality, strength and tenacity” that sped her recovery. She said the tragedies and adversities that her sister has faced would have made another person give up, but her sister never loses sight of her goals in life. “Even when her husband was killed, she did not fall to pieces because she had a 14-month-old baby that needed a mother,” said Esther Alonso. “She is incredible. If those things would have happened to me, I would have crumbled.”

Alonso said she notices small grammar mistakes or forgetting the right word from time to time, and experiences sciatic pain due to weakened muscles. “I am a fighter,” she said. “I am going to come out of all of this just like everything else. I have my life, my family and my colleagues to support me. I won’t take no for an answer.” She came back in April with a reduced load for six weeks to see if she was ready to teach. “It was invigorating to me,” she said. “I love so much what I do, the minute I got into the classroom I forgot all the pain, everything. So this semester I wanted to come back with a full load. It’s good to be home.” SWC has been home since 1979, she said, when her father decided to move the family business. He sold everything they owned to make a home for his family. With the exception of her sister, the entire family moved to Chula Vista. “My father burned all the boats leaving Mexico City, like any great Spaniard would do,” said Alonso. Alonso said she came to the United States well educated, just finishing her first year of university in Mexico City. Her parents went back home to Mexico after a few years because they could not recreate the lifestyle they had there in Chula Vista. Her brother moved with his family to Tijuana, leaving the Alonso sisters living in a tiny apartment. Alonso earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics because she felt she did not have a good command of English. Numbers, she said, are numbers. Her experiences as a migrant and an English learner gave her empathy for SWC students attempting to learn English without having a proper structure of their native language. Alonso returned to college to earn her Master’s degree in linguistics with an emphasis on second language acquisition at SDSU. She later earned another Master’s degree in English as a Second Language. “I became fascinated in the transition of going to English from Spanish,” she said. “I had gone through it, but for me it wasn’t hard. I had a very good educational background and you transfer all of those skills with

you. You do not have to relearn how to think or organize thoughts for an essay. But my students had a lot of problems because they had no skills in their native tongue to transfer into English.” Alonso said she is a strong believer in bilingual education and giving students the language they already have, strengthening and solidifying the foundation of language to transfer to learning English. Before coming to SWC she taught at Castle Park High School, Pasadena City College and Citrus College. She and Ester authored the two textbooks. “Entre mundo” and “Invitaciones.” After many rejections and unwilling to give up, she published “Invitaciones” with her own money and eventually sold the rights. It is now the official text in more than 100 college and universities in the United States. “Destiny was interesting ways of finding what you are going to need,” she said. Alonso said she did not want to be a “halfway-there citizen.” She wanted to make sure the United States did not become like parts of Mexico where they do not protect their people. In August 1987 she became an American citizen. “I wanted to be part of the people, to have a say and this country has always been so good to immigrants,” she said. “Those of us who want to work hard and do something. To be industrious and creative, this country has always been there for us. It is just amazing. I think anyone who comes to this country and works hard can. It is not so in other countries.” Through all her trials the people in her world, her country and her home inspire her. “Life has hit me pretty hard,” she said. “But it has also given me many blessings, my daughter and my family. I have an awesome sister. And now I also have an awesome husband. That is good news. I believe I have been blessed all my life by having people around me that make me a better human being.” es

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Na Koa Ikaika


The Mighty Warriors


ool breezes and a hazy sky did not prevent na koa ikaika (the mighty warriors) of Southwestern College from creating their own sunny day in honor of wounded veterans. A joint exercise between the college’s Outrigger Canoe Club, Student Veterans Organization and the ABLE Club, the Warriors on the Water Luau at the college’s Crown Cove Aquatic Center raised more than $1,900 for KFMB’s Warrior Foundation. Dedicated to honor, assist and support injured and disabled service members, the Warrior Foundation is a lifeline for the returning wounded. Many of the warriors need wide range rehabilitation and a new passageway in life. San Diego County is home to the largest population of returning veterans in the nation with more than 29,000 Afghanistan and Iraq military veterans counted in 2011. Almost 6,500 never made it back home. Nicholas Aguilar Jr., president of the Outrigger Canoe Club, said he would like to make the afternoon of canoeing on the South Bay, eating traditional Hawaiian cuisine and watching beautiful interpretations of Polynesian dancers an annual event. He also envisions a summer weekend camp for rehabilitating service members. “Bringing these wounded out of the military hospital and into a college club environment will help them realize that their quality of life doesn’t have to go down after discharge,” he said. Imua na koa ikaika—Go forward mighty warriors. es

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SOUTHWESTERN NO KA ‘OI - (opposite page) Poynesian dancers Helen’s Polynesian Revue. (l) Dancers take a moment of silence to remember former San Diego Chargers legend Junior Seau, a proud Samoan. (lower left) Outrigger Canoe Club President Nick Aguilar Jr., the event’s organizer, tries the hula. (below) Polynesian singer greets the veterans with a song for warriors.

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lossoming singer/songwriter Jessica Lerner has played a star for years at the San Diego Old Globe Theater and San Diego Repertory Theater. Now she is on the verge of becoming one. Lerner, 21, has been the featured singer in the Teatro Máscara Mágica production of La Pastorela since she was in high school, singing the show-stopping songs of Estrella, the star of Bethlehem. Minus her rhinestone staff and sparkling white dress from La Pastorela, she can still light up the stage with her versatile voice. Her much-anticipated first full-length CD is out and her alreadysizeable fan base is thrilled. Like most “overnight sensations,” Lerner worked hard for years to get to this point in her career. She began piano and vocal training at age 8 and made her first trip to the recording studio as an 11 year old. She released her first recording at 19. Unlike the Nickelodeon teen starlets, Lerner is an accomplished instrumentalist who writes her own songs and records the piano and guitar lines herself. But like most young artists, she had to find her footing. “I used to think that all the songs I wrote were dumb, this is silly, nobody is going to like it,” said Lerner. “I had no confidence behind the work I was doing. I would go out there and sell what I had. When I got my first bits of feedback from people that was a huge boost of confidence for me.” Though she needed to gain her song writing confidence, there was never much doubt in anyone’s minds that she could sing. Lerner sang “The Star Spangled Banner” as an 8 year old at Qualcomm Stadium and has performed at Padre’s games ever since. She began piano lessons at 8 at Southwestern College and studied voice with Joni Wilson.

That same year she debuted in her first musical, “The Return of the Proctor Valley Monster,” a Bonitafest Melodrama that opposed the construction of the 125 Tollway. She was a featured soloist in the show that included many of the region’s best musical theatre performers. Music came to Lerner at a young age, according to her mother, Pamela. Jessica first turned heads as a toddler singing her ABCs. “It was not really something I chose, I was just always inclined to music and singing,” said Lerner. “There were a couple of moments that I could think of right now that were kind of turning points or realization of this is who I would be or this is my calling.” She fell in love with theater and was given the Billie Award from Coronado High School for her role as Ariel in “Footloose” in 2007 from the Coronado School of the Arts. Born and raised in San Diego County, Lerner has developed a large fan base and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube. Fans respect her great talent, friendly bearing and quiet, thoughtful nature. “Jessica’s really inspirational and she is one of my role models,” said Kaitlin Saythong. “Even though she has a life of her own, she is still dedicated to her fans.” Lerner’s song “Miracle” sounds like a love song, but is a blanket message of encouragement to all young people to see the wonder within themselves. “That song kind of kept evolving,” said Lerner. “I would rewrite it and rewrite the verse, and add a bridge. When I learned everything, I had to start with that one because it just kind of stuck with me.” Pamela Lerner said her daughter takes the art of songwriting seriously. “Good lyrics have a way of pulling people in when the content fits,” she said. “Jessica wants the message of her music to be meaningful and strong.” Influences include Shania Twain, LeAnn Rimes and Faith Hill, though Lerner is often compared to Taylor Swift. Lerner, though, may be Swift’s superior as a vocalist and a musician. A prominent music industry producer once said, “Jessica is Taylor Swift on steroids.” Lerner’s CD has been nearly two years in production. It features a variety of original pop compositions, ballads and thoughtful lyrics about life, love and learning. Lerner said she hopes for a breakout, but will continue down her musical path regardless. “I have never really been interested in anything else,” she said. “I don’t have any other burning passions that I would be happy with for the rest of my life, so I hope this works out.” Pamela Lerner told Jessica that she would be there for her every step of the way and to always be honest. “Jessica’s soul makes her special,” said her mother/ manager. “Her music is only one facet that she uses to express who she is off stage. She is a beautiful, kind, loving person.” es

Jessica Lerner dazzled a huge crowd at her CD release party at the Fashion Valley Mall.

See and hear Jessica Lerner’s latest performance Southwestern College by scanning this QR Code.

Jessica Lerner performs in “The Racket Room.”

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n the California deserts lizards with heavy scales bask at the top of ravines to warm in the sun. Living in the dark, wet climate below are lizards smooth and sleek. Though different, they are the same species—a biological adaptation. Many spend their lives wandering up and down the ravines to mate, continuing the chain of life of a species not concerned with of the differences in their biological appearance. Dr. Nouna Bakhiet loves metaphor. She also loves teaching science. Beginning her journey in the hot desert sun of Sudan, Bakhiet, a much-admired Southwestern College professor of biology, said her inner life is that of the wandering lizard. “It’s all in the DNA,” she said. “There is an inherent nature for all populations that some of that population will venture away from that natural habitat. We are designed to do this so that we could populate the earth.” Bakhiet herself wandered from the expected path. She was an accomplished research scientist in a modern day laboratory doing meaningful work. She came to Southwestern College in 1997 to work as an adjunct by night and lab rat by day. Her students won her heart and she left the lab for a professorship at a college that needed a new direction. Bakhiet was the first Ph.D. in the biology department when she was hired full-time in 1999. Her research colleagues did not understand her decision to walk away from a more lucrative career to teach. “Really, my calling, my talent, my nature is embedded in what I do here at Southwestern College,” said Bakhiet. “This is who I am. This is what I was meant to do. I was able to bring all of my experience, inside or outside of the classroom or inside or outside of the lab and lay it at the student’s feet.” Bakhiet is the recipient of the 2012 13 el sol Summer 2012


Faculty Leadership Award, chosen by her peers for her innovative teaching, grant writing and program creation. Nominated by Professor of Journalism Dr. Max Branscomb, he called Bakhiet a campus revolutionary who not only thinks outside the box, but destroys them. “Dr. Bakhiet rocks her students’ world right down to the foundations and challenges them to throw off their old selves and become something greater,” he wrote. “Many of SWC’s best and highest achieving students of the new millennium were her students or are alumni of the programs she has created, inspired and fed over the past decade.” Bakhiet is faculty advisor for the Biology Club and active in SWC’s Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Program, directed by her sister, Dr. Raga Bahkiet. She designed curriculum as academic director of the biotechnology program providing teaching and mentoring for students, whether seeking a technical certificate or a full college education in biotechnology. She led the Bridges to the Future program collaboration between SWC and SDSU for underrepresented minority students seeking a future in biomedical research. As head of internships for BETSI (Biotechnology Education and Training Sequence Investment), she began with a grant from the National Science Foundation. BETSI is now a national model that produces a 100 percent hiring rate of SWC students completing internships within the industry. “We are the DNA people,” she said. “We are the ones that change, modify, and turn off and on DNA. The next level up from DNA is cells, which is our tool. At the training level here, we work only with bacterial cells. Students get the opportunity to work with mammalian cells in internships and hires.” Bakhiet said the community college is

the most basic teaching system she ever experienced, unique to America with a financially logical path for students. Community colleges have the same caliber of teachers as a four-year-universities, she said, but community college teachers that have more time to teach and spend considerably more time with their students. “I have always known that I had the ability to teach and wanted to train myself to become a mentor,” she said. “I could be a holistic teacher, not just in the classroom but to anyone that walks in my office. I could leave them with something that would help them as well.” Branscomb said Bakhiet’s blend of Eastern and Western thinking embraces the communal learning system of Asian and African cultures with the individualistic and creative characteristics of the American system. “Without trying to be noticed she is noticed,” he said. “Without putting herself in the limelight she is watched. Without striving to be out front, she leads. She is an indispensable part of the fabric of our college.” Born in Khartoum, Sudan, Bakhiet said her wandering nature makes her comfortable living just about anywhere. She always sought people that were different from her, she said, and confirmed to nothing. Her culture is a human culture, she said, not any restrictive labels or boxes. One-half Saudi, a quarter Turkish and a quarter Sudanese, Bakhiet is part of the green people of the Sudan. Her features and color are common in the northern region. Sudanese language has no reference to black or white in regards to race. People of the nation are blue, yellow, green and red. “I am green because I am a mix,” she said. “The blue people are the indigenous tribes of the Sudan. They are so dark they look

purple in the sun.” She said the yellow people carry the skin tones similar to Mexicans, Asians and Indians. Red is for Caucasians, the color they turn in the Sudanese sun. Bakhiet spent her early years traveling and studying throughout the Middle East and Britain. Her native tongue is Arabic, but she was brought up to speak English and French. Her parents raised their children to be trilingual and able to live and thrive in an English-speaking country. Sudan, a long time British colony, adopted the British educational system with a 10-year primary school and three-year universities. Her parent’s wandering culture took her education from the Sudan to England, where she earned her Certificate of Education (GCO) at the University of London. Her father’s work in irrigation engineering took the family to Libya where Bakhiet earned her first bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Tripoli. While in Libya her mother, only 51, died of breast cancer. Bakhiet said this is why she eventually moved into breast cancer research. “On her deathbed I sat next to her and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to do something about this someday.’” A short time after her father died suddenly of a heart attack. Her family had already decided that she would take her younger sister to America. In 1980, with a sponsorship from American teachers who taught in Libya, they moved to Iowa. At the University of Iowa Bakhiet earned a second bachelor’s degree in microbiology and a dual Ph.D. in micro and molecular biology. Though she was academically accomplished at a young age, she said she did not believe she had the life experience to become a teacher, her ultimate goal. Bakhiet chose to do three post-doctorate tours at UC Davis, University of Loma Linda and San Diego’s Sanford Burnham Institute. She studied breast cancer for four and a half years and contributed to the creation of mixed drug cocktails used today. Her gift for science blends seamlessly with her gift for teaching. Once she offered sage advice to Nobel Prize recipient Har Gobind Khorana of India, for his “interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis.” He received a quick tutorial in teaching from Bakhiet one day at a conference she attended with students at Point Loma Nazarene University. Before the conference she saw Khorana


sitting alone looking over the ocean. To her surprise, he motioned her over and confessed he was concerned about having community college and high school students in his audience. He had only ever spoken to postgraduates and professors. “So how do I talk to them?” he wondered. “I told him to tell them a story,” Bakhiet said. “There has to be a beginning, a middle and an end.” Bakhiet said out of a folder of 300 slides of v e r y h i g h c o mp l e x bi o ch e m i s t r y wor k , Khorana picked 33 and gave his lecture. “I then knew why he was a Nobel Prize winner,” she said. “Because it was a story, everyone understood it. Students Dr. Nouna Bakhiet said she loves the community college asked questions and because she has more time to teach and spend time relayed it after we came with her students. back. It was a work of art.” she said. “She wasn’t looking around her to “Insights from a Wandering Lizard,” fulfill her social life. She was looking way Bakhiet’s philosophical book of whimsical beyond that.” colloquialisms, evokes Mark Twain and Embargos and sanctions against the Ramakrishna. East and West blend like government of Sudan left Bakhiet’s Turkish curry. American citizenship application “We, the wandering lizards, are the languishing for years. Finally, in November heroes of new memes,” Bakhiet wrote. 2010, she became an American lizard. “We strike out and away from tradition. Returning to Sudan was never an option, We create what is different; we dare to live she said. Despite some progress and many beyond what is known. We are human highly-educated-women, the culture revolutions.” remains male-dominated. “Woman without traditions,” she asserts, “It doesn’t work for me,” she said. “I may can create a brighter way of life. be different from most Americans because She wrote the words, and then created the I don’t have its culture, but I am an alien art from a Buddha board her sister gave her. from outer space in Sudan. I would be very Drawing on water, the picture disappears different in the Middle East, being a woman as the water evaporates. that has her own mind.” “ This is supposed to teach you Bakhiet said she studied her choices impermanence,” she said. “However, being carefully in life, but with no “baggage” to Western influenced, I took a picture of it. bring with her, she feels free and accepted. All of the drawings in the book were done Her inner freedom fuels innovation. in five minutes or less.” Research is her passion, but teaching is her She dedicated her book to President talent and she had to answer the call. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, “Talent will not let you rest.” es because she is from Kansas, married a man from Kenya and then a man from Indonesia. “She is definitely a wandering lizard,” el sol Summer 2012 14





Paralympian soccer star Joey Chavez plans on “finding the back of the net” in England this summer as he leads the offense.

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oey Chavez is going to London, the birthplace of soccer. Fitting, as Chavez seems to have been born to play the planet’s most popular sport. He was also born with cerebral palsy, but to the hard-charging exercise science major that detail seems merely a footnote. Chavez is the striker on the national Paralympics soccer team and his goal is to score goals. A striker is the team’s primary scoring threat. “I feel a lot of pressure being in that position because there are a lot of responsibilities,” he said. “ (But) get the soccer ball under your feet and it will find its way to the back of the net.” Chavez and his teammates all have cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects motor skills. Some may call it a “disability” but not Chavez. “I’ve never actually ever felt that my disability is a bad thing,” he said. His father, John Chavez, said his son is a role model for those in the disabled community. “(Joey) has done a lot for people with handicaps, to show them you never stop, keep trying,” said John Chavez. “When he was born they said he would never walk, but he has been running. He is an inspiration to kids with handicaps. There is always something you can do, don’t stop.” Once Chavez puts on his uniform

and gets on the field, he is determined to let nothing stop him. “That’s the thing, we never let that get in our way,” said Chavez. “We don’t like to think we have a disability. We like to go out and play soccer. We have that same thing, we come from the same story, we live our life and try to overcome those obstacles.” Chavez said he would like to work someday as a personal trainer, physical therapist or adaptive PE teacher. “I know how it feels to be a client and I want to help others with disabilities,” he said. “I love to see the smile on their faces when they have their needs met.” August 29 is the official start of the games and Chavez said he intends to be in optimum competitive condition. This may mean he has to put the pencils down for a while to keep his cleats on. “I want to be in the best shape I can,” he said. “I know where I started and what has set me back, the surgeries. I want to focus less on time studying and replace that with more time on the soccer field and training. Every day I’m training, the day I miss I know someone else is getting better.” Hi s p a re n t s s u p p o r t h i s s o c c e r sabbatical. “I am his number one fan,” said his mother, Vickie Chavez. “If you ask him he will tell you. He is amazing I am so proud of him, I think I taught him to never say I can’t, just keep trying keep doing.” es

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At an age where some professors are retiring from Southwestern College, 55-year-old Dave Wade has just begun his career chasing around teens and 20-somethings out on the football field. Not as a coach, but as a player. Wade strolled into the locker room for summer football and in August made school history as SWC’s oldest student ever to play on the football team. He is the only SWC athlete ever known to be eligible for an ASO card and an AARP card. Football head coach Ed Carberry said he found it hard to believe Wade would be able to make it through the whole summer of training, let alone keep up with 20 year olds. “I thought he would quit within a week,” said Carberry. “I saw him and I told him that this was a little more uptempo than maybe he was used to. He got in there and he asked for ‘no quarter,’ which is a military term for saying ‘no break.’ He asked not to be treated differently. He wanted to do all the work everybody in the class was doing, which involves a lot of heavy lifting and exercises that most older people’s lower backs might go out on.” At the end of summer, Wade gave Carberry his biggest surprise. “He really hung in there and did a great job all summer,” said Carberry. “Summer is over you figure, ‘Well, he is done, nice experiment, you surprised everybody,’ and then he tells me, ‘I want to try out for football’.” Athletic Director Terry Davis said he was surprised when Carberry told him 19 el sol Summer 2012

of the geriatric Jaguar. “It was strange news,” said Davis. “I did talk to Dave about it and he said he wanted to play football his whole life and he never had the Dave Wade, 55, lived out his life-long dream of opportunity. He wanted to playing college football and earned the respect of take the opportunity, which players young enough to be his kids. I thought was phenomenal. It was also a little scary because playing was great. He always came out you’re concerned for his health and with a good attitude and no complaints, welfare.” said Pouvave. After passing his physicals and practice Wade’s older brother, Paul, who lives in assignments, Davis and Carberry decided Peoria, Arizona, found out his younger to give Wade the go ahead. brother was going to play football over “He went out there and he survived,” the phone. said Carberry. “He practiced hard every “It doesn’t surprise me that he would day and was on time to the meetings. try something like this,” he said. “I asked He was an inspiration, really, to a lot of him why he was going to play football people.” and he said he never had a chance to play. Wade was no one’s token old guy. He He thought he would give it a chance, so became a big hitter on kickoff units. I said go for it.” Offensive lineman Marc Pouvave said he Paul Wade said when Dave gets looks up to Wade. something in his head he just goes full “He sure has inspired me,” said Pouvave. blast for it. “Especially when I feel hurt, I look at him “It’s one thing trying out for it and and he’s 55 and has no complaints about it’s another thing when they actually anything.” put you on their team,” he said. Once during practice Pouvave sent Wade said he believes the most important Wade flying through the air on a tackle. body part in football is the heart. Pouvave blocked him down field and hit “I did some boxing and that was a him pretty hard. He was amazed that tough sport,” said Wade. “I don’t know Wade got right back up. Wade is 5 feet 6 which one is harder, football or boxing, inches tall and 170 pounds compared to but both of them take heart because you Pouvave who is 6 feet 4 inches tall and know you are going to get hit and you 340 pounds. are going to get hit hard. It’s knowing if “I have knocked a lot of guys out this you can mentally and physically take it.” season and he got up,” said Pouvave. On the fifth game of the season, “Some of the other players didn’t.” Carberry decided to put Wade in the Pouvave said Wade’s attitude towards game against San Bernardino Valley

College on kick-off coverage. Wade’s memorable first play against SBVC is his favorite. “I was nervous and scared because you don’t know what was going to happen,” he said. Wade ran down the field towards the ball carrier as fast as he could. He saw that the ball carrier had him beat running up the middle of the field. Wade angled in on him, stretched his left arm out under the players chin and smacked him straight to the ground. “Everybody in the sideline realized ‘Pops’ was on the field,” said Carberry. “He makes the tackle and people just went berserk. All the players ran on the field to high five him.” Wade said he did not realize what had occured since it happened so fast. “Our bench erupted and my teammates were slapping me on the helmet,” said Wade. “I didn’t know what was going on, it happened so fast! The first thing I saw after seeing the guy go down was Carberry jumping up and down.” Carberry embraced the moment along with all his players. “You can get penalties for excessive celebration, but they didn’t really care,” said Carberry. “I was chest pumping and jumping in the air, too.” Wade showed toughness, passion and heart that some players lacked this season. “He has grit,” said Carberry. “He has that toughness that allows people to fight through hard times. He has the ability to continue and fight through and press on even at times of adversity. He tells me ‘Hey, I’m going to dress up every day. Yeah my shoulders hurt and my knees hurt, these things happen, but I am going to keep coming.’ And that’s what he did.” Adversity is nothing new to Wade. Going through the ups and downs throughout his life, he struggles with the tough economy of San Diego County. Currently homeless, he lives in his van that remains parked on the same spot for three years. “It would be much easier living in a house or apartment, but I have gotten used to it,” he said. “Not having a job, I’m not able to afford a place. Hopefully that will change soon.” Wade said he will attend City College next semester to earn his AS degree in manufacture engineering in hopes of

landing a better career and job. Carberry said he will not remember Wa d e as S WC ’s oldest player, but as an inspiring soul. “He was a great t e a m m a t e ,” said Carberry. “He was respected by his peers and I think that’s the hardest thing to earn. He was pro duc tive because of his games and because e ver y b o dy s aw him here ever y day on time at the meeting. He didn’t let things get in the way. He understood what his responsibility was from a student and athletes standpoint and he lived up to it.” Davis said he believes this was a unique experience. “That is what we do as a college,” said Davis. “We help people achieve their personal goals. We should all wish that we have a chance to reach our personal goals in life as we go on.” Wade has no rituals or good luck charms, but he gives credit to his higher power for his ability to play football. “Lets face it, I am 55 years old,” he said. “I have never heard of anybody playing college football at my age and I do not think it is me. As long as I am entrusted in Him, He will take care of things. I give credit to Him for giving me the opportunity to do this.” Wade said he can check an item off his bucket list. “I have watched football all my life. I’ve always wanted to play, but I didn’t have a chance to play at the schools I went to. I finally got the chance at SWC and I tried to make the most of it.” es


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A FLOWING SCAR ON PARADISE — Despite decades of talks, recrimination and excuses, the governments of Mexico and the United States cannot agree on a plan to solve the problem of toxic discharge from the Tijuana River into the ocean at Boca Rio in Imperial Beach. One of America’s (and Mexico’s) most beautiful beaches and surf spots are unsafe due to the pollution.

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t’s Paradise Lost-by-the-Sea. Milton’s mouth of Hell is the Tijuana River’s mouth of pollution. California’s southwesternmost waterway has become the River Styx. El Niño rains have once again brought back the gurgling, trundling river choked with tires, trash, dead animals and sewage. A concoction straight from Hades, the toxic stew courses through the Tijuana Estuary and out into the Pacific. Paradise trashed. W i l d C o a s t / C o s t a S a l v a j e , D r. Serge Dedina’s visionary bi-national environmental coalition, is on the side of the angels. After years of finger pointing and recrimination among leaders and citizens of Tijuana and San Diego, WildCoast has made inroads building a bilingual, hands-across-the-border movement. It is a slow journey, however, and Mother Earth is paying a heavy price. Border Field State Park is just one example of this devastation. A recent tire cleanup rounded up enough rubber to open a mid-sized shop. San Diego has played a shameful role in the pollution of our beautiful oceans with its overmatched sewers and street run-off. Worse still is the Tijuana River which has, for years, been a snaking liquid

dump. Heavy rains wash trash and sewage from Tijuana hillsides across the border and into the river, where it travels through the estuary to the sea. Visiting Border Field State Park can be an overwhelming emotional experience. This is not going to change until a muchdebated filtering system is built in the Tijuana River to clean water before it flows through Imperial Beach. For years politicians in Sacramento, Mexicali, Mexico City and Washington D.C. have paid lip service to a proposal by a group of entrepreneurs who call themselves Bajagua, but neither side will accept responsibility or put up the money to build it. The devil is in the details. Both nations are at fault. For this problem to ever find a solution, an international contract should be signed between Mexico and the United States. America should split the cost for the filtering system even if most of the pollutants come from Mexico. Estuary inhabitants are being placed in harm’s way. Animals are in danger daily with the all the trash being dumped into the river. Enter WildCoast on the proverbial white horse. Dedina, a bilingual Ph.D.surfer who loves Mexico, represents the solution. Energized young people from both nations have already paid dividends

and are working to save the whale breeding sanctuary Scanlions Lagoon. WildCoast is now diving into — figuratively, of course — the polluted waters of the Tijuana River. Rule #1 of WildCoast is “no finger pointing.” Dedina and his crew focus on looking forward with a positive attitude and a willingness to work. People travel to San Diego as a vacation spot and clean water should be a top priority to all businesses and community residents. Tourists do not come to San Diego to see signs on the beaches warning of potentially fatal toxins in the water. Health clinics in Imperial Beach provide free hepatitis shots for surfers and swimmers due to the vile state of the beaches. That is noble, but sad. Bob Dylan once said, “Get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand.” WildCoast is lending a hand and could use our help. Hope and help could be the only things that can really fix the devastating state of the Tijuana River and its estuary. It is time to fix this very fixable problem — and quickly. es To volunteer at WildCoast/Costa Salvaje contact the organization at: WildCoast, 925 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach CA 91932. Phone: (619) 423-8665. www.

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The estuary is a liquified landfill hazardous to all living things in Imperial Beach and Playas de Tijuana.

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Quiet, not silent Muscular Dystrophy cannot stop activist STORY BY ANGELA VAN OSTRAN



“Independence was one of my goals.” RAUL CARRANZA 25 el sol Summer 2012

aul Carranza’s voice hovers just above a whisper and he is unable to move on his own. His link to the rest of the world is his thumb, enabling him to type on his computer and navigate through everyday life using a pressure-sensitive clicker on his power wheelchair. His assistants are his lifeline. Don’t let that fool you. Carranza, like Stephen Hawking, has a powerful mind and an indomitable will to learn, grow and advocate for others. A 22-year-old Southwestern College alumni, Carranza transferred to UCLA in 2010, and has been fighting an uphill battle with the state of California to receive the support he needs to continue his education and live independently. Muscular dystrophy may have depleted his muscles, but not his keen mind or burning spirit. Carranza’s caretakers are a lifeline to his education. After his first semester,

the unthinkable happened. California’s budget cuts slashed his nursing and care hours from 22 per day down to 11. Carranza’s fight with the state forced him to drop out of UCLA and move back into his parents’ home in Chula Vista. Fighting for survival his entire life, his combat against budget cuts threw him in the muddy trenches of bureaucracy. But surrender is not an option. Carranza was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age two when his parents noticed his walking becoming more of a waddle. Doctors said he would not live past 14. “Obviously they were wrong,” said Carranza. “Basically my cells don’t make enough energy and the muscles atrophy over time. I’ve been in a wheelchair since I was four. I was actually one of the youngest people ever that got a motorized wheelchair. Because I was so young they made me pass a driving test.”

FEATURE For a young person with a disability, moving away from home can often be the first step toward achieving independence. Most parents are nervous to let their children go off on their own, but that concern can be tenfold when their child has a disability. “ I ’v e a l w a y s w a n t e d t o l i v e independently,” he said. “Moving away from my family meant a lot to me, not because of them, but because independence was one of my goals.” Carranza said he very much enjoyed attending school away from home. With assistance he was thriving at UCLA and was invited to join the psychology honors program. “UCLA is great,” he said. “They actually had a bus that would pick me up from my dorm and take me to class. I know that this isn’t the best choice of words, but it made me feel normal.” Services normally covered by Medi-Cal and In-Home Supportive Services have been greatly reduced by state budget cuts. These services are generally used as a last resort to keep those with moderate to severe disabilities out of institutionalized care. In October 2010 Carranza was notified of 50 percent cuts to his services. His family rushed to appeal the decision by the state, but in December 2010 Carranza was forced to move back home from UCLA. His education was put on hold. His family’s insurance is responsible for a large portion of his health coverage at the moment, but he has had to pay $500 per month out of pocket to ensure his 22-hours of care per day. That agreement, however, will only last until May. He is hoping his luck will last until June. In October 2011 Carranza was asked by some politically-active friends to speak at an Occupy rally in San Diego. Through his assistants and a computerized translator his voice was heard. He made a video on YouTube explaining why he was one of the 99 percent, and his assistant Laura passed it around on Facebook. Organized by the Occupy San Diego Labor Solidarity Committee, Carranza put on another rally in February and a fundraiser at Balboa Park’s Centro Cultural de la Raza which generated more than $2,000 to ease some of the

Raul Carranza is unable to continue attending UCLA because state budget cuts severely curtailed his assistance. He is not giving up on his dream.

medical bills. Carranza’s fight is not just his own. His brother Paul also has muscular dystrophy and requires 24-hour care. Paul Carranza has already been informed that his nursing and assistant hours will be cut in September when he turns 21, leaving two working parents to struggle to find the funds to provide the care for their sons. Carranza returned to SWC this semester as a computer science major, but dropped out due to the time and pressure of fighting the state of California. “My goal is for the cuts not only to be stopped, but rolled back for everyone to get the healthcare they need,” he said. “And, in the process, to get the Medi-Cal decision overturned.” Carranza said he is in this fight for the long haul. “I know this may seem like this doesn’t affect them, but it does. The budget cuts are affecting everybody. Because the first thing the government is going to cut are education and social services. And we’re all in this together.” es

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Athletes on a roll



estled between the last week of summer classes and the start of the fall semester, the empty halls of Southwestern College come alive with the sound of laughter and the smash of metal against metal. For the past 25 years SWC has hosted a rigorous sports camp for kids from four to 18 years old designed to liberate the athlete in each child. Kids have the opportunity to test their skills at 17 different sports, including archery, tennis, scuba diving, rugby and basketball. They do it all on some very nifty sets of wheels, through the organization and dedication of the San Diego Adaptive Sports Foundation. T h rou g h t h e SDA SF at h l e t e s participate year-round in a number of s p or t s , l i ke h o c ke y, s o c c e r, snowboarding and skiing. Parents of younger children are cautious at first, but quickly see the number of things their child can do. Hovering parents are encouraged to sit back and learn. Camp Counselor Sara Cantor, 22, enforces self-made independence in her athletes from the first day. “Some of the kids have spent their whole lives being pushed wherever they want to go,” says Cantor. “They just don’t have the arm strength to push themselves long distances, so we’ve really been working on making sure that the campers are able to do as much as possible for themselves.” Jorlina Bailey, mother of a camper, explained on the first day of camp that her daughter had never pushed up a curb cut by herself. By day four, with encouragement and tips on technique, Bailey said her daughter pushed up a big ramp leading to the tennis courts on her own. Cantor was not surprised. 27 el sol Summer 2012

Her counselor would not let her give up. “It wasn’t the technique, it was the encouragement and the opportunity to succeed at it,” she said. Cantor, a camper herself for 10 years, recalled teachers who told her she couldn’t participate in activities due to her disability and she believed them. “When I came to this camp and they were trying to tell me I could do things, it was really confusing,” she said. “My mom always talks about how coming to camp totally changed my attitude. Before, it was really easy for me to set myself apart from other kids and be like, ‘Well, I have a disability, so I’m different, so I can’t go on with you, so we can’t be friends’.” Par t i c ip at i ng i n s p or t s c amp changed her entire attitude about herself and her disability. “I was normal. That we were all normal and relating to all these other people really made me realize that I could be friends with anybody, that I could be part of any group,” she said. “It made me feel like I could be part of a team and I never felt that before.” Jazmin Garcia, administrative program assistant for SDASF, has helped organize the camp for the past three years. Prior to coming onboard, however, she had never been involved with the disability community. Now she said she cannot imagine her life without this connection. Eight sports programs running year-round keep her very busy. Garcia said she recruits at schools, malls and anywhere she meets people who might benefit from this program. She considers the connection to sports as a gateway to finding a connection to

the disability community, as well as a connection to improving self-esteem and the encouragement to succeed in all aspects of life. Sports camp, for many, is just the beginning. “One participant has done her Bachelor’s and Master’s, and now she’s going to Santa Barbara to do her Ph.D.,” said Garcia. Coaches—some of whom are former Paralympians — are on hand to show kids how each sport works. Learning to block, catch and score are just the first steps. More rigorous sports, such as rugby and basketball, require kids to transfer into chairs designed especially for that particular sport, preventing damage to their everyday wheelchairs and their bodies. For some, the switch from their own chairs to a completely different style is a big change. But it is a bigger change for the athletes who do not have their own wheelchairs or do not use them on a regular basis. Rugby is considered the “roughest sport on the court” by older athletes. It requires athletes to use specialized wheelchairs designed to withstand the forces of slamming wheelchairs. Tires and titanium-built chairs are specifically designed to resist tipping over and spilling athletes onto the court, though that does not stop spills entirely. Originally called “murderball” due to its aggressive and full-contact nature, it is internationally known today as “quad rugby” and is a rough combination of football, basketball and hockey without the added padding or protective gear. Most sports are less aggressive. Most of the kids’ favorite sports were swimming, scuba diving and basketball. The camp, which costs between

REAL DEAL ON WHEELS — Young athletes with disabilities competed on the Chula Vista campus and Silver Strand Aquatic Center in archery, basketball, tennis and lacrosse, among other sports.

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$25-30,000 to run each year, survives entirely on donations from sponsors and would not be possible without the help of hundreds of volunteers, nurses, counselors and coaches who donate their time and equipment to make it happen. SWC donates its facilities every year, an estimated in-kind value of $17,000. Budget cuts forced many gymnasiums and theraputic centers across the county to close their doors, leaving SDASF scrambling to find ways to keep athletes on courts or the water. Many cities, however, offer very few opportunities

for wheelchair athletes. This year’s sports camp introduced 10 new athletes who had never participated in sports activities, to the fast-paced world of wheelchair athletics. Some travel from as far as Texas to be a part of this camp. Campers, counselors and volunteers could be found all over campus wearing t-shirts which represented their team colors. Track and field featured archery, while the tennis courts were home to soccer, tennis and lacrosse. SWC’s swimming pool was host to snorkeling and scuba diving, while the gym was

alive with teams competing in basketball and rugby. Through this camp experience they send a message to their peers and family – and most importantly, to themselves – that there are no boundaries, even at the finish line. es

The San Diego Adaptive Sports Foundation helps adults and children realize that there are no boundaries in sports.

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The Peaceful Echo Of Cesar Chavez



xhausted after fasting and traveling for 10 days, Mark Valdez took the last weary steps towards the beach at Border Field State Park. He was met there by Father Dermot Rodgers, who blessed him for his prayers and dedication. Rodgers broke bread with Valdez, an echo of an historic encounter in 1968 when presidential hopeful Robert Kennedy met Cesar Chavez to break bread with him after a 25-day fast in protest of the poor treatment of migrant workers. “My fast is two-fold,” said Valdez, a member of the Border Angels’ board of directors. “First, in memory of Cesar’s cause and sacrifices that brings me closer to God. Secondly, to experience what migrants experience every day trying to get across the border, many of them losing their lives.” Marcha Migrante VII celebrated the 50th anniversary of the United Farmers Workers, founded by Chavez in 1962. Each day of travel was a tribute to his 31 el sol Summer 2012

10 core principles reflected in its theme, “Walk with Cesar.” Chavez’s principles w e re d e t e r m i n at i on , a c c e p t a n c e of people, celebrating community, respect for life and environment, nonviolence, helping the most needy, knowledge, sacrifice, service to others and innovation. “This park is a sacred park,” said Border Angels founder Enrique Morones. “This is home to Friendship Park where we normally end our journey. The idea was to have a friendship between both countries.” Beginning Feb. 2, at Cesar Chavez Park, marchers enjoyed a sendoff by the Hummingbird Aztec Dancers. Next was the drive to Holtville Cemetery, a somber graveyard of more than 700 unidentified migrants. “The names on some of the crosses you carry are some of the names of some of the 10,000 people that have died crossing the border since October 1994,” said Morones. In Yuma they saw where Cesar Chavez

was born and the remains of the small adobe home where he grew up. They rumbled to Coachella to hear California Assemblyman Manuel Perez announce a three-bill package to assist communities that rely on the migrant work force. On the way to Los Angeles, marchers protested in front of an INS detention facility. That evening they rallied in Plaza Mexico, where El Pueblo Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula was founded. Morones said they spent a wonderful evening in Boyle Heights at the theater of iconic Latina playwright Josephina Lopez. After watching her production of “Detained in the Desert,” Lopez put the group up for the night at Casa 0101 Theatre. During a day of fasting the group journeyed to the Cesar Chavez Center in L a Paz, high in the Tehachapi Mountains. Rugged peaks and great oaks stand guard, protecting a sacred plot of land. In this safe haven stands a simple wooden cross with an iron crucifix behind a small granite headstone. Saint

(clockwise) Cesar Chavez’s son, Paul, and Border Angels founder Enrique Morones at La Paz. Final resting place of Cesar Chavez. Border Angels marcher Mark Valdez ends a 10-day fast with communion on the beach of Border Field State Park on the Mexican border.

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ECHOES OF LA CAUSA — (clockwise from upper l) A Christian cross, Jewish Star of David and Islamic crescent. Picket signs from the Great Grape Strike. Paul Chavez, Enrique Morones and marchers tour La Paz. Morones reads the words of Chavez near the labor icon’s grave one evening.

Francis of Assisi and La Virgen de Guadalupe stand on each end of a consecrated rose garden in Nuestra Senora Reina de La Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), the home and burial site of Chavez. In the midst of a mountain chain that twice almost divided the state into Northern California and Southern California, Chavez started a revolution that united people to fight for the rights of migrant farm workers. His bold but nonviolent fight for social change was influenced by his deep faith in God and the examples of Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He fought with boycotts, fasts, marches and strikes. Thousands of people joined his crusade. Cries of ¡Si Se Puede! and ¡Huelga! echoed through nation all the way to Washington D.C. He became the first American to found a successful farm workers union, achieving bargaining power with growers in 1962, the National Farm Workers Association (now the United Farm Workers of America). 33 el sol Summer 2012

“This is a magical place, an historic place and also a sad place,” said Morones. “Sad only because Cesar is buried here. But Cesar is not gone, he’s with us and he will always be with us.” Warm rooms and beds awaited 25 marchers, but several stayed up late painting crosses for their next day’s journey to 40 Acres, the place Chavez planned his most momentous initiatives, including the 1970 signing of the historic UFW labor contract. Paul Chavez, Cesar’s son, is president of the Cesar Chavez Center, which carries on the fight for humane treatment of immigrants. “(Latinos) have always answered the call to duty,” he said. “We’ve done the (worst) jobs, worked the hardest and we are not recognized for it. So let’s do it. Not so much on behalf of my dad, but we are going to do it on behalf of the larger Latino community.” Moving on to Modesto, Morones said friends from El Concilio help the needy every day and do amazing work.

“We saw the work firsthand, from educating youth to visiting farm wor ke rs ,” h e s ai d. “ T h e wor k i s exemplary and you can see the joy and the pride of the Concilio workers in the love they demonstrate.” Marchers headed to Sacramento and did inter views with local and international media. Morones visited offices of state legislators to seek humane immigration reform. Marchers met in Escondido to support day laborers mistreated by the city’s law enforcement. Escondido has been dubbed “Little Arizona” by human rights groups. Back home on the beach in the corner of the U.S., Morones gave thanks for people who participated in the march. “There is so much work to do,” said Morones. “Cesar’s lessons continue.” es

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In The Footsteps



n White Sands, New Mexico, the sand really is white. The flowers are yellow and the sky is a vibrant blue. But the flowers and the sky disappeared in a storm of dust kicked up by the 7,000 men, women and children who took to the sand and marched in honor of World War II heroes of the Bataan Death March. Every year the military base in White Sands organizes the Bataan Memorial Death March, an arduous 26.2 mile hike across sand pits, up mountains and down through spiraling ravines. The marchers, who enter in light or heavy (mandatory 35 pound rucksack) categories, are civilian and military alike. The march began at 7 a.m. and took most

at least six hours to complete. Others will not cross the finish line until well after the sun has gone down. They came from all across the country for all different reasons to hit the dirt trail. The original death march began in April 1942. Some 12,000 American and 58,000 Filipino soldiers started – only 1,700 finished. Many were sick to begin with and most were malnourished. Those who survived the 60 miles across the Bataan Peninsula were loaded onto Japanese “Hell Ships” to POW camps. American war ships sank many of those Japanese ships, not knowing their brothers were on board. The few who landed safely in Japan found themselves at the mercy of sadistic Japanese soldiers in ruthless labor camps where they were enslaved, beaten and tortured.

Army Specialist Ian Edge is a wounded warrior and American hero. On June 24, 2011 he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan while on patrol with his unit and lost his right leg. “I’m trying to test out my leg since my injury,” he said. “Some days are worse than others. Like a bad hair day, you can have a bad leg day.” Slow and steady, Edge made long strides with a cane in one hand. “I’m hopefully getting out of Walter Reed soon and I want to be sure that I’m in pretty good shape,” he said. “I figure if I can finish this, I can’t get much better than this.” Edge crossed the finish line six and a half hours later. es

Wounded Warriors, servicemen and civilians arrived from across the country to walk in the Bataan Death March reenactment.

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(opposite page, top left) Hydration break for a thirsty soldier. (lower left) An X-TREME team, a group dedicated to helping wounded warriors, completed the 26.2 mile march in full uniform and gear, despite one of their marchers missing an arm and a leg. (right) Thousands of marchers make the long trek through the New Mexico countryside. (above) Nearly 7,000 marchers wend their way through the belly of the White Sands Valley during the marathon-length memorial march. (left) A survivor of the 1942 Bataan Death March is thanked for his heroic service to the nation by young soldiers.

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Ulysses Castrejon had a sweet face

and an even sweeter disposition. He loved his family and friends. He loved propulsive Bob Marley reggae. He loved to play football and he loved helping others. He also loved cake, so when his mother started to round up the family to head home to San Ysidro after a long day of feeding the homeless and celebrating a family birthday in Tijuana, the 13-year-old San Ysidro Middle School student pleaded with her to stay a little longer until after the birthday cake was served. It would be Ulysses’ last cake. While Ulysses and the crowd of his abuelos, tios and amigos enjoyed a slice of pan de cumpleaños, gunmen stormed the home and pushed the women and children into one room while corralling the men into another. Ulysses, 13-year-old man-child, was shoved into the room with the men. Moments later five were dead, victims of another

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senseless spasm of drug cartel violence. When the terrifying clatter of gunfire finally stopped and the shooters fled like an acrid cloud of black smoke, Mary Castrejon, Ulysses’ mother, remembered a sickening silence. There was no sound from the room where the men where, nothing but cold, still silence. When she found Ulysses he was lifeless on the floor, limp and silent next to his dead grandfather and three other people. In shock and despair Mary Castrejon picked up Ulysses in an instinctive motherly impulse to take him to a safe place. “I carried my son,” she said. “I dragged him out of the pool of blood where all the bodies were. I put him in my truck and left that place. The police stopped me and didn’t let me leave. I wanted to cross the border with him into San Diego, but the police told me that I would

not be able to do that.” Señora Castrejon wanted to take Ulysses back to his beloved San Ysidro, his home and the place where the charming and charismatic teenager had so many friends and had created so much happiness. He was not supposed to die in a hail of bullets while eating birthday cake in Mexico. That is not what is supposed to happen to innocent kids celebrating a birthday. None of this was supposed to happen. Ulysses’ family was a group of 21st century Good Samaritans who often spent weekends feeding some of the desperately poor descamisados of the broken streets and dusty poblados of Tijuana. They would collect good food left over from events in the sprawling city and drive it around to people who may not have eaten in days. They felt an obligation to do God’s work in a city that too often is scarred by the work of the devil. After distributing all the food they had collected that Saturday

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courtesy photo Ulysses and his girlfriend Adriana Lopez walking the halls of San Ysidro Middle School.

afternoon, the Castrejons headed to a family birthday party to enjoy some tamales, frijoles and company. It took the hosts longer than planned to bake the tamales and the cake because of broken water pipes earlier in the day. Delayed, the party inadvertently meandered into the evening and a collision course with the pack of cartel executioners ordered to kill all the men in the home as a message, one of thousands of “messages” that has turned once-somnolent Tijuana into one of the Western Hemisphere’s most dangerous cities of the new millennium. The self-proclaimed “Television Capital of the World” has been on television itself thousands of times in the past decade as camera crews and police descend on another crime scene. Before the shooting Mary Castejon was tired and wanted to go home to San Ysidro, but Ulysses and the children tearing around the house had

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other ideas. “Ulysses begged me,” she said. “He said, ‘Mom, I want cake! Please let’s wait until we eat cake!’” Like most moms would, she relented. “So they cut the cake and all the kids were enjoying it,” she recalled. “I even have a photo of my son while he was eating some. In that moment that’s when they came in. I was taking pictures when these men walked in and I just panicked. These men that I did not know entered the party. One of them demanded that the women and children go into a room. I looked up and could only see my younger son. I grabbed him and went into the room. Ulysses’ brother did not see him, but he heard everything. He was with me when I heard the gunshots. There was nothing I could do.” Ulysses and her father were dead before she could reach them. Her husband miraculously survived by ducking behind some furniture that

shielded him from the bullets. There was no shield for Ulysses. Born on February 21, 1998 in Santa Ana, and was murdered on January 28, 2012, Ulysses spent virtually his entire life in San Ysidro. He loved the unique community that despite being the most travelled through place on planet Earth, was to him a safe and wondrous sanctuary. His mother still considers it so. “Because of what happened to us,” she said. “My husband has had the desire to go back to Santa Ana to live with his whole family. But San Ysidro is where I belong because of my countless memories with my son. This is where he grew, ran and played, and I would not like to leave that all behind. Even when I go on the weekends to Santa Ana to visit the family, I feel like I’m leaving him behind.” Ulysses had a lot of friends, said his mom. He played basketball, football and soccer and had a band. He was a huge fan of Bob Marley and System Of A Down. Most of all, his mother insisted, he was a very nice kid. “I’ve read what the newspapers have written about my son and it angers me,” she Castrejon. “The newspapers have been writing that my son was involved in drugs and that he was a dealer, but that’s ridiculous. He had no time to do any of that. I’ve written letters to newspapers asking them to stop writing lies about my son. I want them to stop defaming his name.” Ulysses had many friends who loved him, she said. “They posted many

wonderful things on his Facebook,” she said. “Often when I read what they write on his Facebook page, I just start to cry. He touched so many people’s

lives. Langston Stevens, 13, said he knew Ulysses for six years. “He taught me everything I know about football,” Stevens said. “He was a fun kid, but always took his school work seriously. I feel bad for what happened to him. Everyone has their time to go, some are earlier than expected. I want his mom to know that it’s going to be okay, she’ll be able to move on because Ulysses will always be in her heart.” Another schoolmate, Heavynlee Stevens, agreed. “Ulysses was really fun,” she said. “He was always looking out for others. When we were playing once a girl got hurt. He was worried about her and when he saw that she was hurt he tried to cheer her up by making her laugh. I think if he had been able to grow up he would’ve been a doctor or something where he would be able to help

people.” John Carter, a friend of Ulysses, said the boy liked people for who they are. “Ulysses was a good natured young man who saw others based on personality and nothing else,” said Carter. “He didn’t care how you looked, how you spoke, where you lived, or anything like that. His heart was what he saw with, and that gave him an emotional wisdom many humans aren’t so lucky to achieve.” Ulysses was well liked by his peers at San Ysidro Middle School, which had a special memorial for him. Members of his band sang for him. “Right now, we are planning to plant a tree in the school in honor of Ulysses,” said Señora Castrejon. “We want to do it before the school year ends because all of his friends asked me to do this. I was also informed by the director of the middle school that Ulysses will be graduating with the rest of his class on graduation day.” But Ulysses’ parents are still consumed with grief. “My husband said that he wants to have another son,” she said. “Because Ulysses will come back in that child.” Castrejon said she is so glad that her son was a great human being. “Even in this tragedy, God had a plan for my son,” she said. “Ulysses’ purpose in life was to help people. And he did.” es

A collage Ulysses’ friends made for him hangs in his room.

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peedy cross-country champion Ayded Reyes is usually the fastest person around, but one evening fate caught up to her. So did the INS. After her boyfriend was pulled over on a routine traffic stop by two Harbor Police officers in Chicano Park, she was unable to prove U.S. citizenship. Even though she was the innocent passenger in the car, the Border Patrol was summoned. Reyes found herself sitting alone in INS detention cells for four days, uncertain of what her oncebright future might hold. “I came here when I was a baby,” said Reyes, who was born in Mexico City. “I was brought here by my parents. I had no control over that.” Reyes said four days in detention cells was a horrifying experience and she wonders how many students like her have gone through a similar ordeal, lost and deported to a country they never knew. She said this is the reason she is willing to tell her story — to help those who do not have the same support that saved her from immediate deportation. “It was nerve-wracking,” said Reyes. “I cried like I’ve never cried before. I’m usually a lot stronger but this was just…” Reyes said she was very uncomfortable with the sudden attention she has received from the news media, but as bad as it made 43 el sol Summer 2012


her feel to talk about her ordeal she knew she had to. “I started talking because I want to bring awareness to how horrible the conditions are for all the other people that have to go through this,” she said. “It’s too personal and I don’t know if I want everyone to know. It’s something I went through that was really hard. I’ve never been treated that way or put through such bad conditions.” Taken initially to the Imperial Beach holding facility, Reyes said INS agents began trying to get her to sign paperwork saying she wanted to go back to “her country” immediately. She said she remembered a warning from a high school Spanish teacher to not sign anything under pressure by the Border Patrol or INS. Her teacher taught her that everyone in America has human rights, including the right to due process. “The first thing they gave me was this paper in Spanish, even though I was speaking to them in English,” said Reyes. “When I asked for paperwork in English and told them I was going to college the officers didn’t believe me. They were making fun of me. I’m an immigrant, but I’m not dumb.” Reyes refused to sign the paper, which made the agents unhappy. Reyes stood her ground. “I’m not going (to Mexico),” said Reyes. “I have family, but I do not know anyone

there. I kept wondering what I was going to do over there, where I would go. Tijuana is a very dangerous place to be now.” Reyes said the pressure and the stress made her just want to sign the papers, but she knew better. She said the most important message she wants to get out to the public is the horrible conditions in immigration detention centers and the mistreatment of detainees. “What about all the other people that don’t know they have the right to go to court?” she said. “What about the way they’re treated? It’s not right.” While sitting in holding facilities, Reyes said many questions went through her mind and she felt completely isolated. She wondered what would happen next, what she needed to do and did not understand why she was being treated so badly. “I’ve worked so hard (to earn a university scholarship) and now I can just lose it all,” she said. “The reason my parents came here was to succeed and when you see that you can just lose everything in a minute — it’s horrible.” Reyes was shuffled from detention facilities in San Ysidro, Chula Vista and Imperial Beach. She said in between transfers she was held in a small holding facility. She said the conditions were hideous and does not understand why they make people go through what she described as

FACES OF IMMIGRATION a nightmare. because I hadn’t run in two weeks. But I thought they weren’t doing anything for “There’s no bed, you sleep on the floor,” fought with all my heart and ran my heart me, but a lot of things were going on I wasn’t said Reyes. “There were three of us in out. I just kept telling myself I have got to even aware of.” there. We only had one really thin blanket do this.” Cross-country coach Dr. Duro Agbede each and the air conditioner was on high. In a storybook finish, Reyes won the said he was contacted by Reyes’ parents There’s a sink on top of the toilet and you PCC Championship going away. SWC’s on Friday and informed that she had been are supposed to drink out of the sink with championship skein lived on. Reyes picked up by Immigration. no cups, you have to slurp.” “When I got the call Reyes said no one knows from her parents I was what people go through at shocked,” he said. these facilities until someone Agbede said that Reyes who has been there can has been in this country go out and tell everyone. all her life and her arrest She said the Chula Vista caused many people to detention facility was a little stand up for her. better, she at least got to take “It’s not just her being a a shower. Guards, however, star student,” said Agbede. demonstrated a sadistic streak “It’s that she’s a student and subjected detainees to at this college and every sleep deprivation and other student from this college tactics from prisoner of war has a lot to offer to this or concentration camps. country.” “It’s horrible, you don’t even Agbede said he was see the sunlight,” said Reyes. blank after receiving the “At night when you were call, wondering what he sleeping they would knock could possibly do to help on your window just to wake Reyes. He first contacted you up. For no reason. There Professor of Journalism are little things like that that Max Branscomb and are just not right.” Professor of History Reyes said she wonders Laura Ryan. Branscomb about all the people sent off immediately contacted to foreign places that were a human rights law never their home. f i r m re c om m e n d e d “All those people probably by Governing Board had it worse than me,” said Vice President Norma Reyes. “It just makes me Hernandez to block an wonder. You don’t know how immediate deportation. they were treated and how “Immediately Laura they were sent back. It’s sad. I and Governing Board don’t think it is right. They’re President Tim Nader got humans.” involved,” said Agbede. Reyes said her four“We were on the phone day incarceration felt like all day Saturday. From months. But she said she that Friday, especially that had to compete that week Saturday, which was the and wanted to be there critical time. I was on the Reyes (r) comes on to win the PCC Cross Country Championship. for the team. Determined phone back and forth, to do well at the Pacific back and forth with Mr. Coast Conference Championship, she was the favorite to win the California Nader. It was tough, it was really tough. I immediately focused on training and championship a week later in Fresno. Her really have to thank him.” homework after her release. She did not heroic accomplishment could not have Nader said he first heard about Reyes’ want to break the Southwestern College happened without the support she received situation when he was approached by Ryan streak of winning the conference for 11 from people she had never met. while attending an SWC Chicano/Latino consecutive years and said, “This is not “I didn’t know how close I was to being function. He said he put Ryan and Agbede going to stop me.” deported until Saturday, when coach told in touch with Congressman Bob Filner’s “It felt great to have something positive in me,” said Reyes. “While in detention I didn’t staff and also contacted an immigration my life,” said Reyes. “ I was a little nervous even know what was going on. I actually lawyer that is very committed to this type el sol Summer 2012 44

SWC SUPERWOMAN — Besides being California’s top-ranked cross country runner, Ayded Reyes is a multi-event track star who holds three college records and two state championships. She is also an A student.

Reyes (c) won the California Track and Field Championship at 10,000 meters.

of situation. “As a lawyer myself, I believe it is best to get the best representation in this type of case,” said Nader. “It is very important that you have good representation in this.” Nader said he made several phone calls to faculty, federal authorities, Filner and the detention facilities to let them know how concerned the entire college community was in the possibility of losing a star student. “She is like the poster child for the many students that face this problem,” he said. “She is one of the best students that represents the college and deserves the right to fair representation.” Nader said it was a collaborative effort by many people on campus that helped get Reyes out of the detention facility and he was happy to do “what little” he could do to help the process. “When I spoke to the INS authorities, they said they were receiving many phone calls from people expressing that Reyes should be released,” he said. Nader said the family had called an immigration lawyer, but the fees were well beyond their financial abilities for a 45 el sol Summer 2012

sustained legal fight. “I tried to put them in touch with resources that I know that are affordable or free,” said Nader. “I am not sure whether they found the help they needed there, but felt it was important that she received good representation at a cost the family could afford.” Agbede said Saturday was a critical day because Filner’s office contacted him and told him Reyes was being prepared for immediate deportation. “That was the critical period and luckily I was able to contact, for the first time, the supervisor from where Ayded was being held in detention,” said Agbede. “I explained to the supervisor the people already aware of Ayded’s situation. They needed to know that she was not alone. I was direct and I was forceful in making him understand that this is the type of girl you have.” S WC G ove r n i ng B o ard Tr u s t e e Humberto Peraza said he was taken aback when he heard about the Reyes saga and immediately contacted Filner and his staff for help. Reyes’ situation really touched a lot of people, he said, and he wanted to

do as much as he could to help. Peraza, a former member of Filner’s staff, said it was the combined help of everyone who got involved that got her out. “She is an amazing young woman,” said Peraza. “She is a great student and athlete and she is an American just as much as any citizen of this country.” Peraza, a former high school crosscountry runner, said he knew how hard it is to sit for a week, then compete. He said he was amazed at how quickly Reyes bounced back. “It is astounding to me, after the stress and fear she went through that she went straight to competition and came out victorious,” he said. “I am so proud of her.” Peraza said he is working with Filner and Reyes to enact private legislation because he believes it really affects an individual that is going through this process. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Richard Durban are also interested in the Reyes case. Agbede said the contact with the INS intensified once he learned Reyes had been moved to the San Ysidro detention center. “Once they’re moved to San Ysidro it’s

straight across the border,” said Agbede. “After that discussion Ayded was moved back to Chula Vista.” The fight from Agbede, Nader, Peraza and Filner paid off. “By Monday, I called the congressman’s office,” said Agbede. “They requested me to contact Ayded’s parents and send them down to the INS office and pick her up and by then Mr. Peraza sent an e-mail to everybody that Ayded would be out in two hours.” Reyes said she is very thankful for the people that helped her through this ordeal. “I thought I was going to get bailed out by my mother,” said Reyes. “But thanks to Bob Filner I was bailed out on Monday. Agbede said Reyes said is an extremely talented student and athlete. “The most important thing is that here is a girl who will definitely go to a university on a full scholarship,” said Agbede. “She has had an outstanding performance including winning the 2011 Pacific Coast Conference Championship and still remains among the best female distant runners in the state.” Agbede said that Reyes’ PCC title enhances her opportunities for a full scholarship. “If she didn’t run in the Pacific Coast Conference (finals) she would not have had the opportunity to run for regional and state,” said Agbede. “Winning the conference championship places her at a

higher rate of a full scholarship. Without that, it would’ve been a hard sell because we would have been basing her performance on the previous year and athletics is what have you done for me lately? Where are you now?” Agbede said that Reyes’ timely release was pertinent. Reyes said her parents and sisters are her strongest support, and this experience has brought them all much closer together. She faces a court date on March 1, 2012 and has a pro bono lawyer building her a case to help her stay in the U.S. She said she is unsure what is in store, but she is going to fight hard for the future she has worked so hard for. Agbede said in the end he was filled with happiness and relief`. “The joy was that someone who had been through this situation and with this kind of stress was able to let everything out and give the best performance of her collegiate career,” said Agbede. “It was very, very brutal competition.” Agbede said Reyes feels all students in a similar situation should be educated on their rights. “There should be a way to reach out the students in her situation and explain their legal rights to them,” he said. “Everybody in this country, whether they’re a citizen or not, has rights. Not only as an American but as human beings, fundamental human

rights.” SWC should provide all AB 540 students with information about their rights in case situations like these occur, Agbede said. “Either through orientation, through counseling or through the international student department,” he said. “Letting them know that in case this happens, these are your rights, this is what you can do, this is important.” Agbede said detainees are greatly pressured to sign a document approving their deportation before they have an opportunity to seek representation. “Once they are taken they’re extremely fearful,” he said. “When you are in detention you can not be contacted by anyone.” Agbede said Reyes was lucky because she was able to get assistance and believes everyone should be able to have that. “Ayded wouldn’t be in this situation if she had no one to call,” said Agbede. “A student should know if they have this kind of problem they have someone to contact that can be of assistance and have their rights protected.” Agbede said a lot of people helped Reyes. “The credit goes to everybody. All the people that made this possible,” said Agbede. “I’d sincerely like to express my thanks to everybody. Particularly, Ms. Laura (Ryan), Mr. Branscomb, our board president and Mr. Peraza.” Reyes has been offered scholarships by several universities, including Ivy League schools. “There are a lot of reasons for me to stay here, I have a lot to lose,” she said. “Right now I just want to go to a good university and one that has a good biology program. I study here and I’m going to get a full scholarship, so I’m not even going to put the government in debt with loans. I’m doing this by myself and I have worked very hard for this.” es Post Script: In May, Reyes was presented with Southwestern College’s top honor, the Student of Distinction Award. She scored in three events at the California Track and Field Championships, winning the 10,000 meters and taking 2nd in the 3,000 m steeplechase — the first time she had ever run the event. Reyes scored all of SWC’s 22 meet points by herself. She accepted a full-ride athletic and academic scholarship to CSU San Marcos to study biology and train for a shot at the 2016 United States Olympic Team.

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