The Human Chord

Estuary is a national treasure

By Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Saturday, October 25, 2008

Controversy stalks our buzzing border with Mexico. Illegal immigration, border fences, drug smuggling, Homeland Security and migrant farm workers are just a few of the white-hot topics lighting up the media every day.

But in the middle of chaos there lies a sanctuary. It is the Tijuana River Estuary.

A safe haven to many endangered birds and indigenous plant, the sprawling wetlands is an essential breeding, feeding and nesting ground for more than 370 species of native and migratory birds numbering in the tens of thousands. A vital part of this system is the Border Field State Park, which lies in the southwestern corner of this reserve. When you travel east you run into the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Go north a few miles and first you will hit a part of the San Diego Bay NWR and then the Sweetwater Marsh.

This entire habitat is crucial to the wildlife, to our local ecosystem and its preservation is necessary on a global level. These estuaries and marshlands are considered to be among the most biologically productive ecosystems on our planet and a crucial respite on the Pacific Flyway, a superhighway for migrating birds.

A majority of this natural habitat has already been destroyed due to human encroachment and urban development. There are still many issues in our cities today that are threatening the safety of these havens and the wildlife that they support.

Duncan Hunter’s habitat destroying border fence threatens the wildlife of the estuary and the Border Field State Park. So does sewage contamination and pollution from the Mexican side of la linea.

A $1 billion Chargers stadium proposal on the Chula Vista bayfront will cause irreparable damage to the nearby wetlands of the San Diego NWR and Sweetwater marshlands.

These issues need to be looked at closely and the voices of the environmentally conscious need to be heard. Can we let entertainment, xenophobia and greed destroy what little natural habitat we have left? This is our backyard. This environmental treasure is our responsibility.

Environmental protection of our local wildlife habitats is just one of many issues that impact our community. There are many things that we can provide through community service that will make a difference in our world. Clean up projects on our campus, in our city, and our wildlife reserves and beaches are constantly needed.

Providing food, clothing and blankets to the homeless in our area and our neighbors in Tijuana is an area where we can make a difference in the lives of people in need. Supporting environmental and conservation legislation can affect our future. Promoting health and sexual awareness and education needs to be addressed frankly and honestly.

This is a call for action. I am looking for students, faculty and staff that are interested in making Southwestern College an active, conscious environment that serves the campus and community in ways that have both a local and global impact. Participating in college activities and community service is a vital component when applying for transfer to major universities, scholarships and even your job résumé. This can make the difference in your future in a highly competitive system.

We have all of the support we need here on campus and in our city to make a difference. Let me know what issues you are passionate about. Together we can find the resources to set your voice into action. When the voices of many become voices in action the results can be positive and unlimited.

Let me hear your voice. TheHumanChord@gmail.com

Profesora Guadiana-Costa. Gracias por poner un bicho en mi oído.

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SWC’s financial aid tighter than other colleges

SWC’s financial aid tighter than other colleges

 By Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Friday, October 24, 2008

Politicians of all stripes have come to realize that it is in the best interest of our nation to have an educated populace. Most elected officials also agree that financial aid is a good investment if it helps low-income students get through college. Even after grants have been awarded students can be stuck waiting months for their financial aid checks. Grant portions allotted in the beginning of the semester are often not enough for students’ startup needs. Students may be forced to borrow money from parents and family or consider taking out pricey loans as a last resort. Southwestern is not the quickest at distributing financial aid, but neither is it the slowest. Many students, however, wish it was a bit faster. “At the first disbursement, all of the money is gone,” said Judy Baker, an office information specialist major. “Waiting until the end of October can be financially difficult.” Students who submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) on time may be eligible for state as well as federal financial aid. The California Student Aid Commission supports college students through Cal Grants and BOGFW (Board of Governors Fee Waiver). Cal Grants are disbursed very much the same at Southwestern, San Diego City, Mesa, Miramar and Grossmont Colleges. Each of these colleges disburses 100 percent of the entitlement for that semester in one lump sum within the second month. Fall semester began in August so payments are supposed to be made within the month of September. Except when the California State Budget was not signed until the end of September, as happened this year. Everything is going slower this fall. Palomar College performs its disbursement differently. It waits until the latter part of the semester to distribute the full amount. Fall semester is disbursed in November and spring semester disbursed in April. Pell grant disbursal differs at each college. City College creates an account at the campus bookstore a week before semester begins that is open for three weeks. Money for a transit pass is included. After the three weeks the accounts are closed and reconciled. During the fourth week the balance is paid out to the student. City College’s first installment is 70 percent of the grant. The rest of the grant is awarded when 60 percent of the credit requirements are fulfilled after a verification of enrollment. “The main reason that we set up bookstore accounts in the beginning of the semester is that this was the primary complaint from the students,” said City College Gregory Sanchez, Director of Financial Aid. “This is the time that they need the money for books and supplies and this is the most efficient way of accomplishing this.” Other colleges differ in their disbursement. Grossmont College divides each semester’s grant into four equal installments. The semester begins with 25 percent in an account at the campus bookstore. Then the other installments are paid out directly to the student as the semester continues. Mesa College distributes 65 percent within the first week. The remaining 35 percent is given after a verification of enrollment during the second half of the semester. Miramar, Palomar and SWC follow the same guidelines but with varying percentages. Miramar distributes 75 percent in the first installment then 25 percent later in the semester. Palomar distributes 50 percent on the first installment and the second half later. Many colleges pay out the largest cut within the first part of the semester, but SWC does not. SWC distributes 30 percent on the first installment and 70 percent on the last installment. “The disbursal guidelines that SWC has adopted provides the students with funds in the beginning of the semester,” said Linda Thrower, Director of Financial Aid at SWC. “We assist them with their immediate financial expenses and also try to help them to manage their financial plans wisely. This method of disbursement also reduces the institution’s liability for students that drop out of class before the completion of the semester.” Each Financial Aid Office on all campuses is liable for the grants of students who receive grants and drop their classes either completely or partially. Reconciliation and payment has to be made according to these adjustments.

The Human Chord

Cheating death, loving my new life

By Albert H. Fulcher

 Published: Tuesday, October 7, 2008

“I am afraid that you have about two years left to live.” The voice of my doctor was ringing through my head. I heard nothing more after that, just the beat of my heart.

It had become deafening. With each beat there was a memory, a face, a wish, my deepest sorrow and greatest joy. With this sudden dumping of emotion and thought, I had never felt so alive. I left his office in a daze. There were so many questions that seemed to have no answers.

On that day, I was diagnosed with HIV. I was borderline HIV and full-blown AIDS. The period for the infection to spread throughout my body and knock my immune system down to a critical level was short. I began tying up loose ends in my life with my family and friends.

It is now almost 19 years later. I remember the morning I woke up and it hit me that I was going to live much longer than I expected. Now what do I do? How do you plan for such an unpredictable future? Deep inside, I knew the answer.

Start living your life as if you are going to live and live each day of your life as if you were going to die. Make specific goals for your future, education, career, family, friends and any dreams that you have in life. Life is precious and a cause well worth fighting for. Pure will, perseverance, education and love of life are essential keys for survival.

Today, based on documented cases, with the knowledge and education available, the rate of HIV infection in the United States has not dropped significantly. In the current annual report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention there are an estimated 24 to 27 percent of individuals that do not even know their HIV status.

Have we become this complacent? Because of the success of medicinal treatment, do most people now view AIDS as a treatable disease? After this long I still have questions that seem to have no answers.

But this I do know, it is my truth. Alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex are risky and often a deadly combination. I know this from personal experience.

In today’s world safe sex is a necessity. It is only an option when you know your sexual partner well enough to make that personal decision together. It is my desire that in telling you my story that you take a moment and think about the possible repercussions.

There are only three options when it comes to sex and safety. Abstinence is one, although least popular, it is effective. Second, proactively take a stand. Use your education and knowledge to promote and practice safe sex. Or you can play Russian roulette with your life and take the chance. The choice is yours.

If only one person listens to my voice on this subject, then my story is worth telling. There are many things going on today where I want my voice to be heard. They range from things here in our own community to events happening around the globe. War, politics, wildlife preservation and the environment are just a few of the issues where I need my voice to be heard.

The voice is a powerful and wonderful gift given to us in life. There have been many great voices throughout history that have changed the world around them. Through their words they have changed events in their homes, their communities, their country and the world.

People like Rev. Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, Clara Barton and Thomas Jefferson made their voices heard and changed the world around them. But it was not just their voice. Their voice was heard and joined by many other voices that developed into a force too strong to be reckoned with. I call this the human chord.

Let me hear your voice. TheHumanChord@gmail.com

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