Changing lives one veteran at a time

By Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A day in the life of a Marine. Corporal Timothy J. Jeffers, United States Marine Corps, 22, dismounted the convoy to lead a security sweep traveling through Iraq’s Anbar Province. Jeffers took a few steps off the road looking for improvised explosive devices (IED). Unfortunately, an IED discovered him first, leaving him with critical wounds on two-thirds of his body.

Jeffers sustained severe abdominal and head injuries, lost both of his legs above the knee, a finger on his right hand and his right eye. It was May 18, 2006.

Now, with almost three years of intensive medical care and rehabilitation, Jeffers made his return trip to his hometown in Clarksville, AR, receiving a hero’s welcome.

Unknown to Jeffers, another hero’s welcome was waiting for him at his home in La Mesa, CA when he returned April 27, 2009.

Southwestern College’s Student Veteran Organization (SVO), was invited by the Warrior Foundation to the surprise unveiling of Jeffers “Extreme Home Makeover.”

While Jeffers spent time back home, the Warrior Foundation and Rebuilding Together San Diego were hard at work remodeling Jeffers’ home which was not equipped for a disabled man using a wheelchair and prosthetic limbs to get around.

SVO donations to the Warrior Foundation, through Wieners for Warriors, a series of fund raisers on-campus, purchased new furniture for his new digs.

Every platoon has its leader. In this project, that leader was Sandy Lehmkuhler, Warrior Foundation Chair. Lehmkuhler received a call from Jeffers’ “Gunny,” wondering if Warrior Foundation would be able to make more enhancements to what they had already created for him earlier. Lehmkuhler called the Electricians Union, which contacted Rebuilding Together San Diego, and the ball rolled uphill from there. This ball made it to the top of the hill with a two-week notice.

“America, land of the free, home of the amazing,” said Lehmkuhler. “I really feel that it is important to let the SVO and Southwestern College know just how hard-earned donations are spent. You know that you all have helped to create a quality of life that this Warrior has never experienced in his life, till now, till Southwestern’s vets group helped make it happen.”

Jeffers was surprised and awed as he went through his home, amazed with everything down to his Purple Heart, which he had tucked away in a drawer which is now displayed prominently on the wall, along with his medals and flag. Friends and volunteers offered to fix anything he felt he needed.

“It doesn’t need anything,” said Jeffers. “You have taken care of everything.”

SVO Staff Advisor Jim Jones said that he is very proud of how the SWC community responded to the SVO’s Wieners for Warriors events, with some people paying as much as $30 for a hotdog.

“This would not have been possible without their support,” said Jones. “It’s a testament that Southwestern College truly cares about our men and women in the Armed Services.”

SVO members, the Warrior Foundation and the many businesses and individuals from Rebuild made this project happen and had an opportunity to see the renovation, before Jeffers arrival.

Completely remodeled on the inside and then spit shined, the home was ready for inspection. In true military fashion, no detail overlooked.

Doors were widened throughout the house. In the kitchen, everything was accessible with lowered counters and appliances. Cabinets on rollers pulled down for easy access, pushed out of the way when not in use. A huge L-shaped couch sat in the middle of the living room, leaving plenty of room for Jeffers to maneuver around. Mounted TVs in the home created much-needed mobility space. From the closet to the faucet, every part of the home had been hand tailored to fit Jeffers specific needs.

Vicky Wesche, senior designer at Basset Furniture in Chula Vista, said that when she first looked at the place, everything was too big. There was no way for him to get around in his own home.

“It was worth every ounce of effort,” said Wesche. “Everything turned out excellent. I am so impressed with what each vendor contributed in the project. I know how to do this and everyone involved went above and beyond.”

SVO Treasurer Desiree Galos said that she is so thankful to have participated in the event and was happy that the remodeling of Jeffers’ home was completely successful.

“Every detail, from the furniture to the framed Purple Heart hanging over the fireplace was done with such thoughtfulness,” she said. “I could just feel the love and support that was put forth from the community.”

SVO President David Bonafede said that he thought the whole event was wonderful.

“It was great to see how the community supports our troops,” he said.

It had been a long trip for Jeffers so the crowd did not stay too long. As well wishers trickled out the door, he moved from his wheelchair to the couch.

“My God, this is comfortable,” he said as things quieted down and he nestled in.

Marines have an unwritten rule that is adhered to as much as written regulations. Marines take care of Marines, all the way. This is certainly true in this case, but it goes even further. Veterans take care of veterans, Americans take care of Americans and our community takes care of each other, including the veterans who have served their country.


Leonardo still rocks our imaginations 500 years later

Leonardo still rocks our imaginations 500 years later


By Albert H. Fulcher

 Published: Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Leonardo da Vinci was the quintessential Renaissance Man. His influence can be felt in nearly every field of study. Students of art, anatomy, botany, aeronautic, science, engineering and mathematics know his name and study his 500-year-old ideas and innovations.

The Da Vinci Experience at the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park is a phenomenal glimpse at who da Vinci was and what he accomplished. Florentine artisans, using recently discovered designs and drawings, spent the last 50 years studying his notes and drawings. Using only materials suitable for the period, they replicated more than 60 working models of his ideas and reproduced 12 of his most famous paintings to be displayed in many cities and countries throughout the world. Every piece of this exhibit is exemplary in its artistry.

Experience a glimpse through the vision of the man who said, “The eye is the window of the soul.”

Da Vinci’s contributions to the world are enormous. From 1452 to 1519, da Vinci challenged beliefs and extended knowledge in all areas of life throughout Europe. It was not until his death that scholars realized the extent of his studies. Until then he was under threat of death for even considering many concepts.

Visitors’ tours begin with an eight-minute film on the life of da Vinci. His life was a difficult one, with many obstacles and religious taboos to overcome. Being an artist and scientist in the middle of a dark religious time period, it is thought that being illegitimate, left-handed and gay were driving forces in his quest for knowledge, perfection, acknowledgement and respect.

“The natural desire of good men is knowledge,” da Vinci said.

Every exhibit demonstrates da Vinci’s advanced intellect, artistic gift and the ability to combine all elements of knowledge as a constant. Da Vinci possessed a foresight well beyond his times and peers.

His fascination and skill in the exploration of human and animal anatomy is detailed. Although scientific in approach, his achievements as an artist and designer are clear in looking at the multitude of drawings.

Obsessed with how the body worked and moved, da Vinci performed illegal autopsies, using humans and animals in order to understand the complex system of anatomy.

In looking for easier ways for man to travel, the transportation gallery shows replicas of his ideas. A bicycle with chains, detailed replicas of boats, the first gear-driven vehicle and water shoes are displayed, many operative. His complex understanding of motion and physics employs elements of mechanics still used today.

Although never successful, there are several displays showing his intrigue and experiments in flight. Hundreds of years before the Wright brothers these original ideas contain the foundation of flight used today from the parachute, glider and helicopter.

During the wars of his time, he developed ideas to aid in defense and to create machinery to aid in war. With handmade mortar shells, he studied the force of blast on impact and the devastating affects of shrapnel. He developed the first double-hulled vessel to help protect ships from cannon fire. His tank design, although not feasible with materials of his time, is an intricate piece of artwork and design in defense.

Pulleys, ball bearings, cams, chains and gears throughout the exhibit demonstrate da Vinci’s desire to understand mechanics in a way that would make life easier, safer and more efficient. All of these designs are in common use today.

Da Vinci’s designs were not entirely about science and physics. Some designs such as the chamber of mirrors spotlight his creations for amusement and education, making this exhibit a delight for persons of any age.

Interactive activities in the exhibit are available for any age, interest or background.

As the first artist to use the laws of light and shadows, da Vinci created natural backgrounds for portraits. Da Vinci is widely known for his extensive use of oil paints. His influence in art in history is displayed in uncanny originality.

Learn the secrets of the story why the “Mona Lisa” is smiling, the theory of the musical étude hidden in his “Last Supper” painting, and which artist refused to paint for the rest of his life when he allowed da Vinci, as a student, to paint an angel in one of his works.

His fascinating story, excellent craftsmanship, and love of knowledge make the replicas in this exhibit truly a da Vinci Experience. Student admission with Southwestern College ID is $19.75, and well worth it.

The Human Chord

The Human Chord


By Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sub-zero degree temperatures. Severe cold weather gear and a cup of coffee. So many hours spent gazing into the Aurora Borealis, hypnotized by its luminosity scattering across the starry sky.

Lying in a hammock, encompassed by the soaring snow-covered fjords of Norway, the bitter cold was no match for the awe and wonderment of this mystical, colorful place on earth. There is a peace there that no words can express.

Traveling in a small rowboat off the coast of Greece there is the island called Capri. A cave sits there on the edge of the island. Its entrance, called the Blue Grotto, only visible during low tide.

Light from the sun enters the cave and reflects against the water. Electrified blue engulfs everything above and below, a shade of blue too pure to be compared or forgotten.

Sailing around the oceans and seas of the world, aquatic life is endless and magnificent. Birds fly overseas, hundreds of miles from shore.

Seeing a sea turtle so enormous is like witnessing something almost prehistoric.

Tiny golden dolphins with pastel rainbows painted on their underbelly dance back and forth across the tall bow of a 500-foot war cruiser with effortlessness and grace.

From the shores to the middle of the vast ocean, life is thriving everywhere. Creatures who inhabit this world of water and the menacing power of the ocean once again are a reminder of how small humanity is on our vast planet.

Swimming with barracuda, sea snakes, stingrays and arrays of fish and mammals arguably instills a strong respect for nature from the deep oceans to the tributaries.

Traipsing through much of Europe, a wine sack and a backpack filled with fruit, cheeses and bread are top companions on every road travelled.

Riding a horse bareback in the beautiful green hills of Barcelona is like running free with the wind.

Traveling by camel past the great pyramids of Egypt is like stepping back in time.

Shaking hands with a president and shaking the stub of an armless, legless beggar in Morocco brings a tremendous sense of wonder, and perspective, in both.

When dining with the wealthy, influential, or supping with the poor and desolate, it does the same.

Friendships can come from meeting strangers, spending the day with them and their families.

This is an experience all should have sometime in their lives.

Even when different languages are spoken, it is a lesson in communication that never goes away.

Travel is one of the greatest teachers of life. Discovering different places, experiencing the diversity of people and cultures, changes a person’s view of the world. These experiences travel alongside, as friends. They challenge thought, belief and imbue memories, permanently changing one’s view of the world.

One day spent in unfamiliar places with complete strangers, can be a life-changing, life-altering event.

This summer, make it a goal to go to at least one place you have never been before. It doesn’t have to be across the world, there is plenty to learn and experience right around you. You never know whom you might meet, or what you will learn. Have an adventure this summer.

The Human Chord

A picture can be worth 1,000 words


By Albert H. Fulcher

 Published: Thursday, May 21, 2009

Apathy-By Albert H. Fulcher

New ASO president plans a summer No Confidence vote

New ASO president plans a summer No Confidence vote

 By Albert Fulcher, Serina Duarte and Sean Campbell

Published: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Southwestern College’s newly-elected student government president is not waiting a moment to jump into the fray over recent decisions on campus.

Before he was sworn in as president of the Associated Student Organization, Chris DeBauche said he planned to call for an ASO summer session meeting in order to consider a No Confidence vote in SWC Superintendent Dr. Raj K. Chopra.

“I have had better results talking to this tree than I have talking to Chopra,” DeBauche said as he patted a tree in the SWC Veteran’s Courtyard.

And DeBauche is not stopping with the president, he said. The SWC governing board, which hired Chopra and gave final approval of Chopra’s decisions, should also be scrutinized, DeBauche said.

“(The) board needs to be accountable,” he said.

DeBauche said he and his Gold Party ticket will weigh in with a student perspective on campus issues, more than the outgoing ASO. He said he has concerns about a number of decisions made by Chopra, hailing all the way back to Chopra’s start with SWC in August 2007. He said he was discontent with the superintendent’s overall management of SWC.

DeBauche, who served as an ASO senator this year, said the student government was losing money because it had to support academic programs and clubs which in the past might have been supported by the Southwestern College Foundation. The Foundation suspended all grant making this semester, citing fiscal restraints. Chopra cut staff support for the Foundation in February 2008 and since then, two annual gala fund raisers were not held.

DeBauche said the ASO was left to pick up the slack, including $5,000 for the debate team’s summer camps and nearly $1,000 for an ESL banquet.

SWC Foundation runs dry after consecutive fund raisers cancelled



SWC Foundation runs dry after consecutive fund raisers cancelled

 By Albert H. Fulcher

<!–By Albert H. Fulcher

–> Published: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Many co-curricular programs and special events at Southwestern College took a big hit this year when an old ally’s bank account ran dry. Next year may not be any better.

The Southwestern College’s Foundation, a charitable 501 (c) (3) organization that supports student activities and college events, has nearly run out of money and has been unable to fund many grants this semester, according to SWC’s former Chief Advancement Officer Linda Gilstrap.

Unexplained cancellation of lucrative scholarship fund raiser galas the past two years cost the Foundation at least $400,000 in lost revenues, Gilstrap said, leaving it very low on funds. Most requests-including some from organizations and programs that had received past support-were denied due to lack of funds, she said.

SWC’s Student of Distinction Awards (SODA) were funded by private donations, but other programs were not so lucky, said Associated Student Organization Senator Chris DeBauche. He said that the Foundation is frozen.

“We are getting abnormal funding requests from student organizations due to this,” said DeBauche. “Today we funded $5,000 for the debate team’s summer camps and $950 for the ESL banquet scheduled for today.”

DeBauche said they had to use the Ways and Means Committee funds and private donations to fund these events.

“We have depended on the support of the Foundation to help fund these student activities,” said DeBauche. “But they can’t raise money without holding the galas.”

Dawn Perez, former SWC Advancement Specialist, said she began working with the Foundation in 1998. She filled this position until SWC Superintendent Raj K. Chopra’s first college reorganization February 25, 2008 that eliminated the department and her position. Perez said the Foundation held her heart.

“The first reorg was very devastating for me,” said Perez. “First I was told that I was being laid off as the position was being eliminated. Fortunately a vice president stepped in and I was transferred to office support services.”

Perez was transferred within two days after the reorganization was passed. She turned over her Foundation responsibilities to Nevada Smith, director of community and media relations, and Lorrie Clarke, secretary to the superintendent.

“I was able to give Clarke a quick overview of the complicated software used by the Foundation,” said Perez. “But the Foundation is a full time job. It saddens me greatly, the position was a crucial function to the college.”

Gilstrap said state funding budget covers the status quo, but the Foundation supports many of the different things the college’s budget cannot.

“Students and faculty who want to get money for maybe a conference, or the SODA Awards could get support,” said Gilstrap. “These are the extra things that make us known for a margin of educational excellence. You have to find money for that. The gala has been cancelled twice, and do you know what that means? That means $400,000 that we don’t have.”

Gilstrap described the combination of the Foundation, the ASO and grant funds as “a bridge for innovation.”

“Programs are in jeopardy because there is no discretionary money anymore since the galas have been cancelled,” said Gilstrap. “Somebody should have thought of that when they cut off staffing services to the Foundation. This is money that was not going back to someone else, this was money coming straight into SWC. How prudent is that?”

Gilstrap said that their department had made excellent progress linking SWC with different companies and organizations able to contribute to the college at different levels.

Every fall the School of Language and Literature hosts an international film festival that screens free films for students. This year the event came close to cancellation as funds from the Foundation were cut in half.

“Often times these special requests were fulfilled with matching funds from the ASO. I bet you the ASO is overwhelmed with request now that the Foundation is low,” said Gilstrap. “The ASO and Foundation, together, were powerful partners. See the effect of the decisions made and how it has compromised the capacity of the college. That is actually my bottom line.”

Clarke and Chopra declined requests for interviews.

Faces of Immigration-Japanese student finds SWC great place to learn languages, salsa

Japanese student finds SWC great place to learn languages, salsa

 By Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Thursday, May 14, 2009

She saw an open door, came to America and discovered herself in English and Spanish classes at Southwestern College. This is not what Kazumi Ito, 29, from Tachikawa City, Japan had expected. Now, she is very glad to be here. Ito’s goal in coming to America is to become trilingual and use her new skills to get a job in Japan.

“I had never planned to go to college in the U.S.,” said Ito. “I was planning to go to Mexico to study Spanish after I studied English at a language school for a year. I have wanted to study English in America since I was 22. Most of my friends have already taken the more traditional roles in Japanese life with work, marriage and children. This was a good opportunity for me to go.”

A San Diegan military friend she met in Japan was a big influence on her decision to come to the corner where western America meets Mexico. Ito said this would be the ideal place to achieve her educational goals in the time permitted.

Ito is here on a five-year student visa. For the first year and a half she attended Human International Academy, Mission Valley and the International Academy of English, San Diego Campus.

“I changed my mind about going to Mexico to study Spanish,” said Ito. “After attending the other schools I thought my English was nothing. So I decided to go to college here to improve my English, learn Spanish, get an American education and have an experience.”

Ito started to feel comfortable living in the U.S. after a year. Living close to SWC helped her decide this is where she wanted to go to school.

Falling in love with the clean, green campus, Ito is in her first semester and tackling 12 units. Ito said taking all of her classes in English is not easy.

“It’s really tough, but this is what I choose to do, so now is the time that I have to study hard in my life,” said Ito. “Study abroad is not only studying, it’s a great discovery of my world that I can’t buy with money.”

Ito said she is benefiting by learning in the diverse culture of SWC. Already armed with the basics, Ito was able to jump into the second semester of Spanish 101. She is also doing well in her English classes.

Professor of Language and Literature Kathy Parrish, described Ito as an excellent student in her English 71 class.

“She is really interested in improving her English language skills and is always looking for new ways to practice,” said Parrish.

Tutoring at the Academic Success Center is “saving” Ito with her 12 units required as an international student.

Rubi Guido, an Italian, English and Spanish tutor, called Ito a good and dedicated student.

“Kazumi is very intelligent,” said Guido. “She is advanced in her Spanish, able to start in a higher level of class. She learns faster than other students.”

Very pleased with SWC’s facilities and tutors, Ito said she is satisfied with the choices she made.

“Teachers are very helpful and enthusiastic, now I feel very happy to be here,” said Ito. “I am impressed about students who study in this school. They are from teenager to elder, studying together. I’ve never experienced studying in this environment. It is very new to me, but I am motivated by the enthusiastic students.”

Ito grew up outside Tokyo. English is a mandatory subject in Japan, but Ito said that what they learn is so basic that it is very little help in the real world. She said she was so surprised that there was such a fine system here for people who want to learn.

“One thing that I like about this country is that the door is always open,” said Ito. “If you really want to do something, no matter where you are from, how old you are, you can do it.”

In high school, Ito attended a music academic school, majoring in the electronic organ. Learning to play the piano at age six, she has always thought of becoming a music teacher.

“I have great passion for music,” said Ito. “I love Latin music and I love to salsa. These are the main reasons I chose Spanish for my third language.”

Language, music and salsa are not the only things that interest Ito. She currently takes yoga classes at SWC. Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of music, dancing and fighting maneuvers, is another one of her passions.

Ito is at the beginning of her journey here at SWC. She is excited about the possibilities available to her here and plans to work towards gaining her associate degree. Though she has not officially declared her major, she is quite confident that it will be in languages.

“I really appreciate studying in college with people who are different age, and have different culture, different background,” said Ito. “After I get my degree here, I’d love to travel to South America. Then I will go home to Japan and get a job that I can use my language skills.”

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