Southwestern College should loosen up financial aid disbursement policies

Southwestern College should loosen up financial aid disbursement policies

By Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stock markets across the world are ricocheting like bullets in a steel room. Banks, auto makers and retailers are closing, merging and scrambling just to survive. Food costs are rising daily and the cost of fuel has traumatized our back pockets.

At a time the demand and cost of education is rising, the budget for continuing education is falling rapidly. California colleges and universities are turning away qualified students seeking affordable education. Banks are dropping out of the student loan business at a time when the need for financial aid among students is greater than ever.

Due to course cuts many students wrestle to get into the classes they need for degrees, only to find it just as tough to cover the cost.

Southwestern College students, along with students across the country, are fighting to earn what is a necessity in today’s world-an education. State and federal grants and their dispersal are a critical element to many students’ ability to obtain an education. But some grants pay slower than others, leaving students short at the beginning of a semester.

Disbursement of grants in San Diego County’s community colleges vary as much as the terrain the campuses are built on. Each financial aid office has its own ideas to balance the students’ needs and its college’s accountability of funds. A school’s disbursement schedule is the shifting factor for many students when choosing which community college to attend.

SWC’s payouts of Pell grants lean toward protecting the school’s liability rather than serving students. Lower income, full-time students awarded with grants struggle with the initial cost of books and supplies at the beginning of the semester. Giving out the first 30 percent in the beginning of the semester is helpful in many cases, however, the amount is inadequate to guarantee the student a smooth transition into classes by having all of the textbooks and supplies required for the courses taken. It is a long wait for the second installment when the majority of the funds awarded. By then students have worked extra hours, borrowed money from family or friends, or resorted to pricey student loans.

To be fair, SWC’s policies are far from being the worst, yet they are among the toughest about withholding a hefty portion of Pell grants to the latter part of each semester. This is very stressful for students who are just eaking by.

In comparison, San Diego City College seems to have come up with a comprehensive system beneficial to students and the college. It sets up individual accounts with the campus bookstore with 70 percent of the grant awarded in the first four weeks of the semester. This allows students to buy textbooks and transportation passes a week before the semester begins.

With the remainder of the first installment sent a week after, it also gives them the incentive to spend their money wisely in the initial purchases.

This might increase the liability towards the end of the semester for the college if lots of students drop, but the benefits outweigh the risk.

Students equipped on the first day of class are more apt to be successful. There are two cushions of cash spread between the first and second installment that the student can rely on. More revenue is generated for the campus bookstore. This is a good compromise in the delicate balance of needs and liability. And so far it has worked well for City College. It is a good business model that is worth looking at.

Grants are designed to aid the student in reaching their educational goals. The payment schedule of grants for SWC students could be much worse.


The Human Chord

Breaking the cycle

By Albert H. Fulcher

 Published: Thursday, December 18, 2008

I ran as fast as my spindly legs could carry me. Never had I seen such violence.

While I ran I could still see the girls ripping pierced earrings off each other’s lobes and pulling clumps of hair from each other’s heads. Guys were punching and stabbing each other with pens and steel hair picks.

It was the older kids who were fighting, the 8-12 graders who had attended the school the previous year. Seventh graders were scrambling to escape. Scared stiff by the blood-soaked clothes, screams of hatred and threats, I did as my mother had told me to do. I ran.

It was September 1971, my very first day of high school. I was 12 years old. History was being made and I was clueless. I had just witnessed the first day of forced integration of schools in Savannah, Georgia, an order that was strongly opposed by both sides.

My mother had told me this was happening. She also told me to run home at the first sign of trouble. I had blown her off, believing that she was just “freaking out” over nothing.

My friends and I had no idea about what was happening in the world around us. After graduating sixth grade our summer was filled with playing ball in the streets or going house to house to find something to eat. Most of the time you would find us playing in the woods. We had acres to play on. We spent our days catching crawdads in the creeks, swinging like Tarzan from large vines that grew in the trees or fishing for catfish in the stocking ponds.

These things were the most important in my life. Our biggest concern was whose house we were going to gather at on Sunday night to watch “The Wonderful World of Disney.”

We spent most of seventh grade doing the same thing. School was closed on and off for the first part of the year. I cannot remember the number of times we were all sent home early because of racial tension building up in the school’s common area.

I did not understand it either. When I was told of the forced busing from other neighborhoods, my only concern is that I did not want to leave my home to go to a school far away. I felt sorry for all of the kids who had to leave theirs. But the violence scared me. I saw nothing good in it.

My grandmother would always tell me “You come from good stock” whenever I felt like I was in trouble or afraid. She was right. Raised in the Deep South, I consider myself very fortunate that my mother and father taught me that all people are created equal. They were raised in a world that was quite the opposite. Growing up in the South during the Depression and witnessing the horrible violence that the South went through during the Civil Rights Movement had to have its effects.

Yet as far as we have come, prejudice is still flourishing in the world today. Generations throughout history have spread the gospel of bigotry to their friends, family, children and grandchildren. Individuals, couples, communities and nations all over the globe are living with prejudice hanging over their heads in a shadow of hatred and intolerance. It is a circle of hatred that will not go away.

Race, religion, sexual orientation and cultural differences should be embraced and honored, not judged, ridiculed or persecuted. Personal prejudice against any individual or group because of these differences is the real enemy that needs to be destroyed.

My parents made a conscience decision to change what they had been surrounded with all of their lives. They broke the circle of hatred with me and taught me to be tolerant. I have to pass it on.

Break the circle of hatred and pass on tolerance.

Let me hear your voice.

SWC students bring some joy to Naval Hospital veterans

SWC students bring some joy to Naval Hospital veterans

 By Albert H. Fulcher

 Published: Thursday, December 18, 2008

“Deck the halls!” said Sandy Lehmkuhler, director of the Warrior Foundation. With the precision of an amphibious assault landing, a team of 250 volunteers armed with holiday decorations began the transformation of three floors of Balboa Naval Hospital on Saturday Nov. 29.

Service members were tucked soundly in their rooms in the wings dedicated to wounded, disabled and rehabilitating Navy and Marine personnel as the teams of volunteers transformed the bleak hallways into a holiday walk of honor.

Representing Southwestern College proudly were the members of the Student Veteran Organization (SVO). Met with smiles, hugs and a generous portion of gratitude they were quickly assigned the task of setting up cozy fireplace scenes on each floor. Armed with tape, plastic brick walls, fireplace scenes, garland, bows and ornaments the SVO made amazing time in performing their duties.

“Turnout for this event was very good,” said SVO President David Bonafede. “It was very nice to see so many people out there that are willing to commit their time and effort to show support for our troops and fellow veterans.”

Finishing their first full year of charter, the SVO has established a strong alliance with the Warrior Foundation and its efforts to help the active duty and veterans that serve the country.

Coordinator for the successful event was Diana Giuliano, special events coordinator for the Warrior Foundation.

“This is my second year coordinating this event,” said Giuliano. “I am overwhelmed in the outpouring of gifts from the community this year. Everything used here today, with the exception of a few small things bought by the foundation has been donated.”

Donations for this event were abundant. Huge stacks of snacks, fruit and microwavable foods stood in every available spot for the service members to enjoy during the holidays. There were more than enough decorations to cover each floor with holiday spirit. Breakfast was provided for all of the volunteers and a feast was waiting for the service members when the work was completed.

Volunteers from all over San Diego filled the hall. Along with the Warrior Foundation, the Navy League and SVO volunteers arrived cheerfully and ready to work.

“We have people from all over the place,” said Giuliano. “North County Biggs H.O.G. (Harley-Davidson), Blue Star Mothers and the Masons are a few of the groups here. We also have dentists, active duty and caring individuals helping us out. People have come from everywhere, with their families and children to help us make a difference this holiday season for our heroes.”

Under the strong and well-organized command of Lehmkuhler, assignments and supplies were given to each team as they came through the doors. A reception area was set up with homemade treats for the service members to come out and enjoy. Halls were filled with laughter and happy chatter as each team did their part. Stragglers and individual volunteers followed behind placing posters and cards in every spot available. Comrades of all ages worked together as veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq gathered together to support the service members in need.

“The most touching thing for me during this event were the amount of handmade cards and posters,” said Giuliano. “I was afraid that we wouldn’t have enough. Last year we had to spread out the cards, but this year we are looking for space to put them all. Children from Bostonia Elementary School in El Cajon not only provided most of these handmade cards, but have taken it upon themselves to continue to support our troops throughout the year with personal cards and letters.”

Giuliano is grateful for all of the time and effort that the SVO and all of the volunteers which supported the efforts to make this holiday season brighter for these service members in need.

Garland and bows are streamed down every hall. Handmade posters and holiday cards display warm notes of thanks and appreciation from all of the volunteers fill every available space on the walls. In every major corner are festive holiday trees and lights. The sterile environment is now a cozier place with just a touch of home and the spirit of the holidays for our wounded heroes.

Jim Jones, staff advisor for the SVO said our service men and women deserve a taste of home.

“Although we can never replace home for our service members,” he said. “It is important to make them as comfortable as possible while they are rehabilitating.”

Faces of Immigration-Awakening

SWC music student earned a place of honor with Mexico’s mystical Huichol People

By Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Thursday, December 4, 2008

“What am I doing here?” thought Arinda Caballero.

Standing there with a few companions, she saw the rugged terrain of the upper Sierra Madre Occidental. Surrounded by rocky desert terrain and dense pockets of forest she felt as if the terrain was daring her to travel further.

It had been a long journey to this point, a flight from Tijuana to Guadalajara followed by a seemingly endless drive through Nayarit to the small village of Mesquite. There was a two-day wait for a driver to go further up into the mountains. Enduring the rough ride up the mountainside, they could drive no more. Now they were traveling by mule.

Meet Arinda Caballero, artist, dancer and well-known Mexican jazz singer. Just a few weeks earlier her life filled with the hustle and bustle of singing, traveling from venue to venue and building her career. She was living all of the things that she had always dreamed.

Living her dream, however, had a price. Even in all the glow of her recent successes, chaos had become a daily companion both in her career and in personal life. Demands were draining her of who she was and she suffered inside knowing where she was heading.

“This is not where I expected to be at this time in my life,” said Arinda. “I knew I had to find a way to regain the control of my life and career. I could smell the breeze of change in the air around me.”

Caballero did not hesitate when a friend offered her the opportunity to go teach art to children of the Cora tribe in Nayarit state and the upper northwestern corner of Jalisco. Funding for this project was provided by grant through the Mexican government.

“I knew instantly that this was the change I had been looking for,” she said.

Armed by her mother with an arsenal of equipment and anything she thought could protect her daughter from the elements, Caballero began her journey. This would be a good trip for her and she would not be gone long enough that her career would suffer.

“Standing in the middle of nowhere, I became overwhelmed at the power of the surrounding Sierra Madres,” said Caballero. “With no one in sight to meet us I knew that I was out of my element.”

Her escape to refuge had become a fear-provoking path into the unknown.

After what seemed an eternity of reflection, guides did show. Caballero and her group were led to the local Cora village.

Cora is an old civilization, more than 2,000 years old. Maintaining much of its prehispanic culture, religious beliefs and languages, they avoided governmental control centuries after the Spanish colonization and the conquering of the Aztecs.

“I had an advantage over my American and European companions when working with the tribe because I am Mexican,” said Caballero. “My fluent Spanish helped me in communication with the tribe and I was able to learn their language quickly.”

There were many barriers to overcome. Rules she had to live by were strict. As an outsider and a woman, she was not allowed in many areas of the village. To view or participate in many of the daily rituals of the Cora people was not allowed. They permitted her to keep her camera equipment, but it was put away and could never be used.

Caballero worked with the children sharing her artistic talents. She spoke to the children in their native tongue and they would travel through the landscape daily together gathering indigenous materials to work with.

“I found great joy in the presence of the children,” said Caballero. “I felt like Julie Andrews in the ‘Sound of Music’ as the children and I danced and sang our way through the mountains looking for art supplies.”

Happy in this mystifying place she saw the Cora as an amazing people. Little by little, they allowed her to interact more in the tribe’s customs and rituals.

People of the Cora found great entertainment in her singing and dancing. Her jazz and freestyle dancing were new to them, and her attempt in learning their music and dance was met with laughter and teasing. Caballero said she did not mind. She felt honored to be there and fed off the simplicity of their culture.

On one particular evening, Cora from many tribes gathered. Caballero was asked to dance in ceremony and immediately caught the eye of one of the other tribe’s leaders. Through the course of the evening, he decided that Caballero was to be his new wife. He had his people capture her.

“I felt hopeless and lost,” she said. “I had no idea how I would get out of this delicate situation”

Her colleagues and the tribe quickly collected bribes to offer to the leader. They used liquor and tobacco to distract him long enough to grab Caballero and bring her to safety. This resulted in anger and discourse between the tribes.

“Eventually government intervention was required,” said Caballero. “Explaining to them why it was unacceptable to take me in this manner was a difficult task. Taking of a wife was a common practice in their culture.”

Eventually all was smoothed over and Caballero returned to her teaching.

After working with the children for six months, Caballero became comfortable in her surroundings. Yet she knew there was something more.

“I knew that I was being carefully watched,” said Caballero.

With this feeling relentlessly at her side she wondered whether it was by the tribe, or the government. Perhaps all of them were watching her. This concerned her and once again, she could smell the breeze of change coming in the mountain air.

During the middle of the night, without warning, Caballero found herself being covered with a blanket and dragged out of her dwelling away from the village. Fear gripped her to the point of helplessness. She wondered if she were being claimed as a wife once again or worse. These things raced through her thoughts as she was led in darkness. Finally, the blanket was removed. She looked at the men standing before her.

“I knew these people and had seen them before,” said Caballero. “Bright colored clothing and the different arrays of feathers that they ornamented was a distinct sign of who they are. They are the Huichol Indians. I had seen them in the village from time to time and out in some of my excursions. They live much deeper in the Sierra Madres in the state of Jalisco. I did not know what they wanted, but at least the fear had left me.”

Looking into the eyes of the leader she felt that her life was about to be forever changed.

In front of her stood a shaman with both arms out and closed fisted. He slowly opened his hands to show Caballero what he possessed. In one hand he held corn kernels, plump and ripe, prime for food and seed. In the other were kernels of much lower quality, fodder for cattle, of poorer quality.

“This corn we plant for the government,” said the shaman. “Good seed is what the government takes and we are left with the bad seed to feed our families. What are you going to do about it?”

Caballero instantly recognized the injustice. She spoke to them about her work for the government and that it only had to do with the teaching of the Cora children. She had no knowledge or control over what the government did with the Huichol.

They had been watching her closely working with the Cora children and accepted her truth. Sensing her honesty and her compassion, they asked her to come to their village to work with their own children

“I made a pact with the Huicholes that night,” said Caballero. “If they would shelter, feed and meet my immediate needs for survival then I would quit my grant work with the government, go to their village for a time, and teach their children as I had been doing with the Cora.”

They told her that in three days a plane would come for her at the Jesús María River and bring her to their village in Jalisco.

Caballero said goodbye to the Cora children and their people, her companions and to her paycheck from the government. Three days later, she was waiting by the river with all of her things to accompany the Huicholes to their village. This time was much different. She was alone and headed further into the harsh territory. As she looked across the region, the nature around her was no longer daring her to enter.

“It was beckoning me to come further,” said Caballero. “To see what more this miraculous place on earth had to offer. My heart spoke softly. I was not alone and magnificent things were waiting for me in the horizon of the mountains.”

A small plane came, just as the Huichol had said. Filled to capacity with turkeys and chickens Caballero was thankful when they landed and she saw the striking faces of the Huichol that were there to greet her.

Huichol are a peaceful people, she said. Their origin is not completely known and there are many theories of their beginnings. Their culture today has been handed down through the centuries and dates to pre-Columbian times. Uto-Aztecan is their native language and Spanish is their secondary tongue. They withstood the Spanish colonial invasions and warring tribes by retreating to the remote regions. Here they kept their beliefs and practices untouched until the intrusion of civilization brought strangers into their region.

“Huichol call themselves the healers of the Earth,” said Caballero. “Religious ceremonies and traditions, even down to the clothes they wear reflect their respect for all of the earth. They worship their ancestors and pray to the elements of fire, earth, water and air. Every living creature, plant and even the earth that they live on is one, each with its own purpose blending together life. Corn, deer and the peyote are the holy trinity.”

Upon her arrival, the leaders of the village rummaged through all of the things that she had brought. By the time they were done all she had left where her clothes and a swiss pocket knife. They allowed her to keep her camera, but under no circumstance was she to use it.

Caballero had been through this before. Rituals, meeting places and sacred areas were places she was not allowed to see. She understood that this might change as trust was established between them. Caballero began her work with the children of the Huichol.

“I was astonished with these people who showed such love, care and commitment to their children and elders,” said Caballero.

This simplicity and devotion soothed her. Huichol are not slaves of time. Day begins with the sun and it ends with the sun. As the sun goes down the tribe gathers as the elders tell stories of their history and pass along centuries of knowledge to the young that will one day take their place. She had much to learn and began finding her place within their society.

A special interest in Caballero was taken to the lead shaman, Chelino, a powerful and wise man.

In his first meeting with Caballero, he grabbed her by the head and gazed steadily into her eyes. “I felt his existence as it passed through my entire body, mind and soul,” said Caballero. “He spoke of my mother and father, my grandparents and great-grandparents.”

His detailed knowledge of her family and its history was mystical to her. He even spoke of things to come. His interest with Caballero developed into a peculiar friendship.

“Chelino affectionately calls me la latina gringa,” said Caballero. “I found this peculiar at first as I am Mexican, but I understood the reality of my place in their culture. I was la latina gringa in their land.”

Caballero worked with the children of the Huichol as she did with Cora. Devoting her time and energy into the children, she slowly gained trust and respect. Eventually she was allowed to sit at night with the tribe and listen to the stories. Her dancing and singing once again brought her to a place where the people enjoyed her company and closer into the purity of the tribe. She had no idea how long she would stay and became at ease in their land and ways.

“I was happy, content and loving the work I was doing there. The emptiness in my life when I began slowly began to be filled with the lives of the Huichol,” said Caballero

After working with the children for a year, one day Chelino and the others showed up at her door. Standing there, in their best fashion and decorated with all of the colorful feathers, something important was taking place.

Chelino looked at her and said, “I know you have a camera.”

Caballero, at first worried, defensively told him that her camera had been tucked away and never brought out during her stay. Chelino knew this and assured her that she had gained great respect among the leaders of the people as she had willingly obeyed the laws. He was extending her invitation to a holy site. Many shaman from around the world would be meeting. They asked her to bring her camera, document the pilgrimage and give them the photographs. Caballero was proud and excited to be included in such a holy ritual.

Higher into the mountains they traveled. She wondered if she could make it but followed willingly as they traveled the jagged terrain. As night started falling, they reached the sacred place.

“Individual camps surrounded the lake,” she said. “To this day this place is the most spiritual place I had ever witnessed. I was free to roam from camp to camp. Gathered were shamans from all tribes of the Sierra Madre, Mexico, America, South America and even Africa.”

Caballero’s relationship with the Huichol people grew stronger after the gathering. She spent many hours speaking with Chelino and the elders of the village. Chelino spoke to Caballero of the white man often.

“We dance on the earth to bring healing, balance and harmony,” Chelino would say. “The white man dances to the dollar. White man is disconnected from the earth. They deplete the earth of its resources without regard and have wars over money and land. The only good thing the white man has done is Coca-Cola.”

“Huichol people revere Coke as it gives them energy on the long walk,” said Caballero. “I knew that he spoke the truth and sadly, had to agree with him.”

One day, as Caballero gathered with Chelino and the elders, she was asked an odd question.

“What do you think of the women in our village?” asked Chelino.

Caballero hesitated in her answer, afraid of insulting them. She knew that she could not lie to them so she decided to be as candid as she could.

“I respect the women in the village, and the work that they do for their family and the tribe is honorable,” she said. “But I could never be one of them. I am unable to submit myself to men as they do and due to my culture I could never be one of many wives to a man.”

Chelino thought carefully about her words.

“This is understood with us,” he said. “From this day on with us you will live as a man. You will work in the fields, you will hunt in the forest and you will dance and pray with the men in ceremony.”

Caballero still taught her children, but began working with the men in the fields. They taught her the way of the revered corn. They gave her a bow and began teaching her the way of the forest and the hunt. Huichol hunt animals out of necessity of life and ritual. White tail deer is sacred and their blood is a sacrifice to the earth. They weep, pray and mourn whenever they have to kill. They never take anything from the earth without leaving an offering in its place.

Caballero learned of the sacred peyote plant. Huicholes are referred to as the Peyote People. “Regardless of age or gender, all tribe members eat the peyote plant,” said Caballero. “It is used in rituals to bring vision and clarity in the harmony of the earth. Women of the village eat peyote and interpret their visions in their beaded art and woven pieces. Warriors eat peyote to sustain their bodies with water and nourishment on their long pilgrimages through the rugged terrain.”

Caballero was in her second year with the Huichol now, and daily became more a part of the people. Once again, early in the morning, she was greeted at her door with the men adorned in their feathers. Something important was happening.

“Today you will travel with us,” said Chelino.

Gathering only her water sack and bow, Caballero went with the men this day. They never told her where they were headed and she had no idea of how long the journey would be. They walked all day, through the terrain of the mountains. They walked in order with Chelino leading the way and la latina gringa at the end of the line. As the day went, it was difficult for Caballero to keep up with the men. At the setting of the sun on the first day of their journey the men’s pace in front of her went faster and faster. Caballero did her best to keep up with the men, but as darkness fell, she saw the last of the Huichol men in front of her disappear into the night. She was alone, in the middle of nowhere in the dark. Suddenly fear came alive.

“There was much for me to worry about in the highlands at night. This region is full of poisonous snakes, scorpions and wild cats, the largest being the jaguar. It was late. I was cold, hungry, lost and afraid,” said Caballero.

Remembering her teachings Caballero decided not to travel any further into the night. She could not see well enough to know if she would walk off the side of the mountain and could not distinguish the terrain in front of her. Caballero found a bed of dry leaves. She lay there covered with leaves for warmth, said a prayer for her safety and eventually fell asleep. She slept hard. She was exhausted and her body was depleted.

A brush of sunlight awoke Caballero the next morning. Surviving the night alone had brought back her self-reliance. She could hunt with her bow. By now, she had learned to forage for worms and grubs, and believed she could find something for food. Looking around her, she saw that she had slept on a high peak with a sharp decline into a large valley. She sat down on a rock and the beauty of the sun rising through the mountains overwhelmed her.

“The land did more than that,” said Caballero. “It engulfed me. For the first time I truly understood what the Huichol had been teaching me. In that moment, I was one with the earth. Every rock, plant and animal was living and breathing. Air, fire, earth and water were a part of me. Peace, harmony and balance were my companion. I spent the morning with God.”

As Caballero looked at her surroundings, she noticed the valley below her. Down at the base there was a small river of sweet water and a grove of peaches on its far shore.

“I was in paradise,” said Caballero. “I decided to stay at this place for a while. I drank from the river and fed off the luscious peaches. For three days I bathed in this piece of earth, the worry of being lost was forgotten.”

When Caballero awoke on the fourth day there stood Huichol men that she had never seen before. Telling them her story of how she was lost from the tribe, they spoke barely a word. Asking them for help, they told her to follow them. She quickly gathered water from the river and stuffed peaches in every part of her clothing that would hold them. They took Caballero to a road that forked into three directions. They told her to follow the sun. She looked at the roads and the sun and then pointed to the fork on the left. They nodded, and then left.

Caballero traveled down this road all day. Then as quickly as they had disappeared from her sight, they were there again. Chelino and the rest of the men were coming up the path. They were not far from home and they completed the journey in silence.

Chelino called for Caballero. She told him of her days missing, what she had learned and experienced. By this time, figuring out that they purposely left her behind, she never threw an accusation. She spoke only of the earth and her spiritual union with it. Chelino was pleased.

Meet Arinda Caballero, artist, dancer, jazz singer, teacher and Huichol warrior.

Caballero is now Huichol. She possesses the same rights and responsibilities as any in the tribe. No longer forbidden from sacred places and rituals the earth is her home and the Huichol are her family.

Caballero lived with the Huichol for three years before deciding that it was time to leave. Filled with life of the Huichol the void that was once there is now gone. Herself in balance, she knew she had much more to offer in her life and her career.

Caballero is now ambassador of the Huichol people and their precious culture that is in so much danger of becoming eliminated. Huicholes are in constant battle to keep their land, their rights and to protect their ageless traditions.

“Chelino and I are still in contact,” said Caballero. “Through phone, writing and my dreams we are constantly in communication. Chelino and some of the tribe travel here to my home once, sometimes twice a year. Chelino performs healing ceremonies and I help them to raise money desperately needed to aid in keeping their culture intact.”

Caballero’s life is forever redecorated with the existence of the Huichol in her. Her professional career since then has taken her all over the world in dance, song and film. In her art, you can see the Huichol and their visions. In her song, “Hijo de la Tierra” on her album “Oceano” there is a mystical blend of Huichol and Spanish.

Meet Arinda Caballero, student at Southwestern College. Caballero is currently majoring in Mariachi. The word Mariachi is believed to come from the language of the Cora, those she worked with in the beginning of this journey.

“Learn to be at peace with the earth and yourself. Show respect and love for everything and everyone around you,” said Caballero. “Learn the ways of your ancestors and bring back the simplicity of their knowledge and let it be shown in everything that you do. Say a prayer for the Huichol people.”

Archaeology legend has many a sweet story

Archaeology legend has many a sweet story

 By Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Thursday, December 4, 2008

Maybe all the concern about the stale Halloween candy is misplaced. Dr. Michael Coe has found chocolate that is nearly 4,000 years old. It was a sweet discovery for a Yale anthropologist considered the world’s leading authority on Mesoamerican history and culture.

Coe held a two-hour question and answer presentation at Southwestern College and reveled students with stories of exploration and adventure straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. A lively audience in room 751 relished the journey.

Best known as the man who deciphered the Mayan glyphs, Coe has written many books and appeared in documentaries about the Mayan people and their history. Coe’s wit and humor were a delight. His deft blend of scholarship and personality made the learning fun as well as interesting.

Coe said he was in graduate school when he discovered his love of archaeology. Among his mentors were Albert Tuffar, the leading expert in Mayan culture of his time, and famed anthropologist Matthew Sterling, whom Coe called “a father figure.”

He spoke of the fall of the Mayan empire and how Mayan cities were eventually abandoned due to the deforestation of their lowlands and three severe droughts in a row.

“This as an environmental lesson that should be well studied for our future survival,” said Coe.

The cities that still have Mayan influence include Teotihuacan, Chichen, Xochicalco and Tikal. “Chichen is still the site that is least known about and needs further research,” he said.

Adventure and sometimes danger can accompany researchers in isolated parts of the world. A colleague, archeologist Peter Matthews, was kidnapped by a dissident Mayan group. Coe organized a rescue, but eventually Matthews was able to escape on his own, ala Indiana Jones.

Coe said it is imperative to study Mayan ethno history. Civilization has infiltrated remaining descendents of the Maya. Coe has spent years with the people of this ancient culture. Mayans were hunters and foragers who knew the land and environment. Guides and colleagues that lived in the region would take Coe out and name every animal and plant in the region and their purpose in the environment and their culture.

“This knowledge is quickly vanishing,” said Coe. “Within 20 to 40 years there will be no one left on this planet with this full knowledge of Mayan ancient ways. Television, their worst influence, is to be the demise of what is left of this culture.”

There is still much to learn about the Maya, he said.

“Now after most Mayan glyphs have been deciphered the challenge is to find the origin of Mayan writing,” said Coe.

Mayans kept mythical and prophetic records called the Chilam Balam. Each city and town kept its own records and these are the richest sources of information. Most are still hidden by the remaining people.

Coe said favorite moments of his long career include finding Mayan ancient monuments–Monument 34 his favorite–and discovering the primary standard sequence in the Mayan glyphs. Least favorite, he said, is the excavation of pottery, which he has spent many years doing.

“This work can be long and very tedious (working with small fragments),” said Coe.

But all is not tedium, especially for chocoholics. Chocolate was discovered in pottery shards dating back to 1,800 B.C. Research has been aided by the Hershey Candy Company that has the technology to find basic components of chocolate in old pieces of pottery.

Technology has expanded tremendously during Coe’s career, he said. The first breakthrough was in 1948 when carbon dating technology was invented. This provided accurate dating of artifacts. Ground penetrating radar has been especially useful in tracing out artifacts and cities buried by time. Remote sensing, aerial and satellite photography have also been powerful new tools.

Coe had excellent advice for students getting started in this field. He encouraged anyone interested to explore the region along the Amazon River and Cambodia.

“Volunteering is a fundamental way of gaining formal and credible experience in the field,” he said.

The Archeological Group of America keeps a current list of academic excavations. Coe advised students to find one of interest, volunteer and learn how to record and supervise an excavation. With a Master’s Degree there is much contract work, he said. To teach a Ph.D is necessary. Coe stressed the large commitment that is needed for this type of work.

When asked what he would place in a time capsule today, Coe said “junk food, communication, space exploration and some samples of our current technology.”

And maybe a Hershey’s kiss or two.

Reclassification saga continues for SWC employees

Reclassification saga continues for SWC employees

 By Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Thursday, December 4, 2008

Long-awaited job reclassifications for non-teaching employees may have to wait longer.

Possibly much longer.

Southwestern College’s classified employees have for 10 years sought a third-party, district-wide evaluation of their jobs in hope of advancement and raises. District administrators got the okay from the governing board to hire the Johnson and Associates consulting firm and in 2004 a district-wide reclassification study began.

Leaders of the SWC chapter of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) complained that the process is moving at such a slow pace that it is almost time to conduct a newer study. SWC administration urges patience.

Reclassification studies examine what an employee does and compare the job’s responsibilities with those in the original job description. Often an employee is given new responsibilities that make the worker eligible for a new title or a raise in pay.

Therein lies the rub with the SWC study. Though Johnson and Associates has recommended some reclassifications, the district is arguing that a financial crisis is making pay raises impossible.

Mike Selby, the senior gardener in the grounds department, is president of the CSEA. He has worked for the district for 24 years and for 22 years he has been a part of the CSEA negotiating team.

Selby and Nevada Smith, SWC Director of Community and Media Relations, verified that there is more to the process than just the argument over compensation. Budgetary limits and the state budget crises majorly interfere, resulting in it being dragged out over such a long period. The upheavals and changes in the upper administration of the college have not helped the process either.

Selby said CSEA employees are growing frustrated by the delays.

“Many of these positions that were submitted will be outdated or non-existent by the time this process is completed,” said Selby. “With the current state budget crisis there are many that work here who wonder if they will even still be employed by the time these issues are resolved.”

Information that is being reviewed is more than three years old, Selby said, and Johnson and Associates has been paid almost $80,000 for its services. By the time negotiations are settled, he said, the study will be well outdated.

Annual reclassification is done on a smaller scale. Every year employees have the right to submit reclassification of their jobs from March 1 to June 30. With the delays in the global reclassification the CSEA and the negotiating team of SWC agreed that classified employees would not submit annual reclassifications for the past two years. This year, however, employees were allowed to submit reclassification for their jobs. Classified employees have gotten their submissions in on time and they are in the process of appeals.

Some reclassifications have been approved. Some of the job description and responsibilities have increased, placing those in a higher pay class. The only problem is, Selby said the title is granted without the monetary compensation. There are still many job descriptions in appeal for monetary compensation.

Smith acknowledged that many matters remain to be settled.

“The negotiation of compensation here at SWC is currently in the appeal process,” she said. “These negotiations will continue until a joint decision is reached between the negotiating teams at SWC and the CSEA.”

Selby said his job is to see that employees are fairly compensated for their work. Many college employees are underpaid in comparison to similar workers in other districts or private industry, he said.

“For example, computer people–programmers–are highly underpaid here at SWC,” said Selby. “In searching for an experienced programmer the position has not been filled. The salary offered is so far below the scale of outside programmers in the work marketplace.”

Lack of funds is a large contributor to the problem, but it is not the only one, said Selby. From the governor of California to the governing board at SWC roadblocks abound. Classified employees are waiting to see whether or not they get reclassified, get a salary increase or even have a job position available this time next year.

Selby told his union members to keep the faith.

“Remember, we are the glue that holds this campus together. We are important and necessary.”

The Human Chord

Give thanks to veterans and soldiers

By Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Thursday, December 4, 2008

Greed for power, money, land, natural resources and the propagation of religion are the perpetuators of war. In the midst of war and its violence, innocent lives are squandered and sacrificed every day. Caught up in the arms of conflict, they are the victims. This is an atrocity in a world where diversity should be embraced and on a planet that has all of the natural resources to feed, clothe and shelter every human on earth.

America’s conflict in the Middle East has many masks. War on Terror, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and the American Occupation of Iraq are just a few of the names that we use to describe the conflict in that region. But it is still war no matter what name we conveniently place it under.

More than 96,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. America has lost more than 150 civilian contractors and the world has lost more than 160 journalists, all of which worked in the war zones. The numbers of the dead continue.

The world, our nation and even our families are divided by their opinion of the war in Iraq. Some believe that we have done the right thing, the right way and are an integral part of birthing a nation into democracy. Others see it as an action that has become a monstrosity and that there had to be a better way to rid Iraq of its tyranny and lead its way into freedom on their own accord. Then sadly, there are those who just do not give a damn.

We as Americans have the right to speak our voice, to gather in support or protest, to let our opinion be known to our local, state and national government officials. This right is given to us under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We Americans claim this right proudly, as we should. This is a right worth fighting for. These rights are the basic foundations of a free land.

But the right to free speech is really just an illusion. It is only a right on our own soil. Ask any American that came from China, Croatia, Rwanda and the many other nations where free speech is non-existent. They will tell you their story and you will realize that we have the distinct privilege of freedom of speech.

We owe this privilege to the women and men that protect our cities, defend our borders and with diligence perform whatever their country calls them to do. They are the ones who protect our freedom.

Next time you see a uniform walking on campus, give them a nod, perhaps even a smile. When you are standing in line with a uniform, say hello, better yet, a thank you. You never know. They might have just gotten home from Iraq or Afghanistan or they may be leaving tomorrow.

4,775 American troops have been killed in the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. Listen as their voices for freedom live on. They are the voices of the fallen.

Spec. Curtis R. Spivey, 25, Chula Vista, CA

Sgt. Michael J. Martinez, 24, Chula Vista, CA

Spec. Michael J. Idanan, 21, Chula Vista, CA

Sgt. James M. Treber, 24, Imperial Beach, CA

Staff Sgt. Richard A. Buck, 25, National City, CA

The numbers of the dead continue.

Let me hear your voice.

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