Co-curricular programs need more protection

Here is an exercise straight out of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Imagine Southwestern College never existed.

Science fiction’s iconic television series”Babylon 5” might not exist, nor any of the brilliant screenplays created by its gifted writer J. Michael Straczynski. Latin music superstar, songwriter and producer Julieta Venegas and her half dozen Grammy Awards might never have found voice. John Fox, a Super Bowl coach, and former Charger’s defensive tackle Ogemdi Sharron Nwagbuo could be selling footballs at Wal-Mart. Seattle Mariners clean-up hitter John Jaso might be sweeping out Taco Bell. Telemundo sports anchor Humberto Gurmilan might never have seen his way beyond his wheelchair. Ayded Reyes would likely have been deported.

Luckily this sample of brilliantly talented students began their journeys at SWC and had faculty who cared about them.

Straczynski began writing and producing plays here. Venegas wrote songs and perfected her performance skills in the SWC music department. Nwagbuo earned All-Conference honors as a sophomore when he recorded 55 tackles and 10 sacks. Fox played football on the same field. Now he is head coach of the Denver Broncos. California’s top-ranked 2011 community college cross-country runner Ayded Reyes is now on a full university scholarship and training for the 2016 U. S. Olympic team. Jaso played for iconic baseball coach Jerry Bartow. Gurmilan was News Editor of The Sun and a forensics star.

California’s theatre, sports, television media, journalism, arts and communication programs are being slashed and burned, all to balance the budget of a cash-starved higher educational system.

It is not a new story, but it is a sad one. America repeatedly stamps out enriching programs in tough economic times and seems doomed to let bad history repeat itself. Leaders in government and education making these decisions are doing so by dollars and cents. What we need is a way to budget this one-sidedness with dollars and sense.

SWC has some elite programs. Its Mariachi Garibaldi is the best collegiate mariachi on the planet Earth. Period. SWC’s brilliant Concert Choir is soon to add the Festival of the Aegean on the Greek Island of Syros to its long list of invitations. And the college’s journalism program is winning state, national and international awards. Its newspaper is ranked #1 in competition against cream of the crop universities across the nation.

For a college that few people in the nation know exists, co-curricular programs are ambassadors to the wider world and sources of pride for our challenged community. These programs inspire students to spend hours and hours working above and beyond to excel. Some enriching programs are expensive, but if our government and college administrators put in 10 percent of the time and effort that the students do to make these programs a success, our nation and our college would be humming.

Here is my challenge to SWC leadership. Do not settle for clichéd, two-dimensional thinking. Do not think you can cut your way out of our dilemma. Do not preside over the diminishment of this great college.

It is time to stop thinking like bean counters balancing books and save these programs with the spirit of entrepreneurs. Rather than paying expensive consultants, invest in grant writers to help the professors that spend endless unpaid hours begging for money to keep their programs afloat.

Ask even more from our dedicated Educational Foundation. Holding a gala every year to support student scholarships is terrific, but creating an event where proceeds spread across special programs can be just as valuable to student success. Our Associated Student Organization works to fund campus clubs that contribute to the community, but virtually nothing to support programs that invest in our students’ futures. Money is out there and many philanthropists are looking for viable programs to invest in. Build the programs, invest in organizing college and faculty alumni and start thinking outside the box to find a way. Many students’ livelihoods depend on it. Our nation depends on it.

It is time to stop treating these programs as burdens of a budget and celebrate them as gateways to the community and the world. It is possible that a future president, queen of country music, national watchdog reporter, hall of fame baseball player, Oscar-winning film director or concert violinist is spending hours investing in their future in one of SWC’s special programs.

When making fiscal decisions that affect student learning outcomes, remember this: If there is no way in, there is no path to success.


True tolerance comes through self-acceptance

Written by: Albert Fulcher / Campus Editor

November 28, 2012

Without truly knowing all the origins of my genealogy, I am certain that the blood of many cultures runs through my veins. That is what makes me American. I am a self-contained mixture, a melting pot of immigrants and Natives blended during our country’s short life.

My father was in the military and I was born in Stuttgart, Germany. We returned to my grandparent’s home in Tennessee when I was a toddler. My first recollections of life are from a much simpler place in time.

Farm life shaped many of the characteristics that I have carried through life. Even at the age of three there was work to do. Everyone contributed to the home, safety and care of the family. In the beginning I worked with the women in the garden and kitchen. Sometimes my only job was to sit on the washing machine while it was spinning so it would not bounce off the back porch.

I learned as I watched my grandfather do his daily routine of tending to the animals in the barn, moving cattle from one pasture to another. He had fields, crops, woods, lakes and many animals during those years. Both of my grandparents influenced a strong family and work ethic that I use every day of my life.

I learned that work is hard, but fruitful. My family taught me the joy of many simple things in life. Even though at the time there were many new electronics emerging, we sat around on the porch to listen to stories about our heritage, religion and some good tall tales-or listened to radio and music. My grandfather was a preacher and built a church right down the road from the house so farmers in the area could meet and worship.

Most people have work to survive. Life can be wonderful and it can be just as cruel. Principles that I learned as a farm sprout follow me to this day. They are innate. Family, in any form, is one of the only truths in life you can count on. Though I protest religious dogma, faith and hope are a necessity.

Another part of me is rebellious, always asking questions folks do want asked. I have the spirit of a wanderer and am not afraid to venture into the unknown, unexpected or the “unacceptable.” My mother often referred to me as a gypsy. When asked who was the black sheep of the family, my two brothers lovingly point to me.

“Unacceptable,” I use loosely. What is unacceptable to one person can be a strong passion for another. This has roots in many things, including culture, family upbringing, life experiences and circumstance.

All of the traits, even those that I consider weak and dangerous, are the threads that make up the elaborate tapestry of me. I cling to these threads, for without them, my tapestry would unravel.

Woven together, the threads of my tapestry struggle against each other, but hold together as a single piece. Though many of them plague me, I learned to embrace the intimate diversity of myself.
That constant struggle is the journey of life. Learning to hold to these qualities takes me a step closer to accepting the diversity of the world around us.

Suicide an epidemic for returning Vets

Written by: Albert H. Fulcher / Staff Writer

October 19, 2012

Suicide grimly reaped an average of 100 Americans each day over the past year. More than double the number of homicides reported each year and the third leading cause of death, suicide knows no boundaries. Suicide claims the rich, the poor, young and old, and people of every race and culture.

Last year alone, more than 8 million people thought, planned or attempted suicide. Emergency rooms treated more than 157,000 for self-inflicted injuries and every day thousands more never seek help. It is a paradox of the human race.

Numbers are staggering, yet shame still prevents society from having an open discussion on the subject.

Suicide is on the rise for active duty military, veterans, gays and lesbians, and college-age males—the highest rate seen in 15 years. Most suicides occur in an age range from 15 to 24. San Diego County’s Medical Examiner’s Office recorded 392 suicides in 2011 and the number is expected to rise pending investigations. This is the highest total in 23 years.

In July, a Time report on suicide among service members read, “Active-duty U.S. troops die by their own hand at the rate of one a day. Among all veterans, the rate is one every 80 minutes.”

War, bullying, abuse, neglect and antidepressant medications are cited as causes of suicide. In most cases there are obvious changes in behavior that, if recognized, could have saved a life.

A suicide prevention organization called It’s Up to Us San Diego provides a valuable resource on the signs of possible suicide and sound advice on beginning the conversation that no one wants to have. Some of the general symptoms are drastic mood swings, long-lasting sadness and irritability, social withdrawal, inability to cope with everyday problems and substance abuse.

With all of its ups and downs, catastrophes and triumphs, successes and failures, life is worth living. No one should feel completely alone and hopeless. Help is out there for those brave enough to seek it.

Suicidal men and women are not alone. There are people who care.

Choose life, whether it be for yourself or for someone you love. Understanding, compassion, love, empathy and courage can save a life.

Close friends and family with concerns must take the extra step to let depressed persons kow they are not alone and guide them to the help they need.

Reach out. It is up to us.

Local Suicide Prevention Action

Suicide Crisis Hotline-(888)-724-7240

Youth Talk Line-(877)-450-LINE (5463)

Active Duty and Veteran’s Courage to Call-2-1-1

VA’s Suicide Hotline-(800)-273-TALK (8255)

Homosexuality-A Death Sentence

By: Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Friday, March 30th, 2012 at 2:13 am

As we sit here idly in California to see whether courts decide in favor of same sex marriage, gays and lesbians in other parts of the world are literally fighting for their right to live. In Liberia, Senator Jewel Taylor, former first lady of murderous ex-president Charles Taylor (currently facing United Nation’s charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity) introduced legislation condemning homosexuals to death.

Taylor’s ghastly amendment makes gay sex a first-degree felony punishable from 10 years imprisonment to the death sentence. Uganda is hot on Liberia’s crusade of inhumanity with similar legislation pending. In Uganda, where homosexuality is already punishable by life imprisonment, a bill pending includes the death sentence and criminalizes acts for “aiding or abetting homosexuality.”

Sadly, this is nothing new in Africa or in other parts of the world. Homosexuality carries a death sentence in Mauritania, Sudan, southern Somalia, northern Nigeria, Iran, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Many death sentences are carried out by decapitation, stoning, rape, flogging and fatal mutilation.

In early March, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association reported that Islamic states and Africans walked out on a United Nations gay panel and insisted that protection of homosexuality does not fall under global human rights. Of the U.N.’s 192 members, 76 countries have laws criminalizing homosexual behavior. Oddly enough, several countries in the world only target male gays, and allow woman-to-woman sex.

In Depth Africa, a human rights organization, reports that six African countries now have laws punishing homosexuals with 11 years to life of imprisonment and 14 countries have sentences ranging from one month to 10 years. Five countries have laws calling for imprisonment with no indication of length of sentences. South Africa is the only country on the African continent that recognizes same-sex marriages.

In June 2011 the United Nations issued its first condemnation of discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people in a declaration described as a monumental moment in world history. The only thing monumental about this is that the world allows such tragedies to continue with little or no help at all.

Homophobia is alive and well in the world today, and its roots rest in self-proclaimed moralists that ram their personal religious beliefs and bigoted fears against any person that does not share their convictions they do. Like segregation, the Final Solution, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, slavery and brutality, anti-gay laws are a crime against humanity.

No person, group or government has the right to limit the freedom of people to love the person of their choice. Religious and personal beliefs should be employed to save the oppressed of the world, not beat them down further. Homosexuality is not a crime and whether or not it is a sin is a matter of individual belief, not an issue to be preached or legislated against.

Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people are not out to destroy personal religious and moral beliefs that people live their lives by. They only want the same rights as individuals that the majority of the world has, namely, to love whom they love without discrimination and to live their lives to the fullest without fear. Stop the persecution. Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Buddha and the great religious leaders of in the world would not have condoned these atrocities. They all believed in the free will of people. Most importantly they all believed in freedom, peace and unconditional love.

AIDS epidemic still ravages central Africa, The Human Chord

By: Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 at 9:29 pm

One-third of their babies will be born with HIV. As many as 15,000 people will die within the next three years, and more than 1 million of their people already infected. Conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo are dismal now taking death tolls and conditions back to the place it was before treatment became available, all because many the world countries of the Global Fund weaseled out of their promises to provide antiviral drugs. Out of more than a million HIV/AIDS patients, only 44,000 receive treatment today in the Congo.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) also blames the Congolese for not making this pandemic a priority. Conditions are horrifying as people flood to clinics with advanced illnesses and MSF doctors are crying out for help before it gets worse. The government ignores this silent massacre. It spends an average of $2 a year for every infected person.

Most of the world—including the media—has turned away from the atrocities of the region. War plagues its history in the fight to be the superior ethnic group and allows money-grubbing corporations to rape and pillage the land and wildlife as much as the government does its own people.

Though true figures are much higher, the United Nations recorded 11,000 rapes in 2010 with reports of mass rapes of women and children (both girls and boys) in the North Kivu province in July and August. Rape is a horrific weapon of war and more than 200,000 innocents from all ethnic groups in the region endured or died because of rape and violent sexual assaults by rebel forces and the Congolese army. At war with seven neighboring nations since 1994, the people and armies have penetrated the Congo for its rich mineral resources resulting in an ongoing battle for political power. Logging, poaching and mining are destroying this vast resource at an alarming rate, with little very little reported by international media.

War Child, a United Kingdom relief organization, calls the conflict in the Congo “Africa’s First World War” and is the earth’s deadliest conflict since World War II.

Statistics on the region are sobering.

With a population of more than 7.1 million, the Congo has lost more than 5.4 million people. One in five children will not live to see a fifth birthday. More than one million people have been forced to leave their homes torn by war and genocide, many fleeing into the depths of this tropical paradise and destroying the natural habitat that this planet depends on. With more than 20,000 peacekeepers, the U.N. reports 100,000 civilians have fled their homes because of raids on villages and clashes between rival militia groups since last November.

Conflict is rooted in gluttony. Gold is a large resource and responsible for the majority of the ongoing bloody wars and massacres. Government or rebel forces control mines and the conditions of the men and children miners are horrifying. Western consumers unknowingly fuel oppression of the Congolese. The Congo is the world’s supplier of minerals such as coltan, tin and tungsten, all minerals used for the fabrication of consumer electronics. Manufacturers continue to make disposable electronics as violence escalates.

Things look bleak and hopeless for the people of the Congo and very few are listening to the screams of the innocents. Before you rush out to buy your next piece of technology, use your cell phone to your ear, fail to recycle electronics, remember that lives are being abandoned, forgotten and lost for that luxury. Post that to Facebook via your mobile device.

Imperial Beach is a piece of Heaven

The Human Chord

Imperial Beach is a piece of Heaven

By: Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Monday, December 12th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Imperial Beach (I.B.) is my home. It is a small town hemmed in between two big cities with a life and style of its own. Its reputation has changed over the 23 years I have lived here from a roughneck biker town, riddled with drugs and gangs to a precious piece of undeveloped coastal land.

I.B. still has a distinctive, laid-back flavor that has always been a draw for those of us who choose to live here. Even with the massive population explosion in the past 20 years, you just cannot get the taste of I.B. out of your mouth. Many Southwestern College students, faculty and staff live in this last seaside city on the edge of the America/Mexico border, still mostly undisturbed by urban sprawl and massive construction projects, keeping the quaint feel that this unique community has to offer. It is a magnet for people that want to live here or escape the life of the larger cities that surround it.

By far, the best attraction in I.B. is the Tijuana Estuary. One of my favorite things to do is to take a walk to the mouth of the Tijuana River. Not through the estuary, but straight down the beach. Spectacular views and an abundance of wildlife are your companions.

On any given day, getting to the beach, I can see a crowd of people that flock around the pier. It is always bustling with people fishing, swimming, walking, jogging and surfing or just sitting, enjoying this little ray of sunshine. People of all ages come here and enjoy what this tiny town has to offer.

Many people are completely unaware of the beauty and wonder of what lies south of the pier. On one of my strolls to the mouth of the river, groups of the many species of sandpipers that thrive in this ecosystem year round are always the first to greet me. I find it comical watching them run in and out of the surf searching for food. They run back and forth, as the waves roll in and out, as if they do not want to get their feet wet.

Two lone surfers were catching the waves away from the more popular section of beach closest to the pier. Far away from the lifeguards, they are breeds in themselves. Waves in this section are more powerful, rocks are their landing ground rather than a beach and the riptides more dangerous, but that does not stop them from their desire to experience that oneness with the ocean.

Seeing surfers out on their boards, particularly while waiting on the next set and in a more relaxed state, I can spot their connection with the water and the wildlife that surrounds them from above and below the ocean’s surface. I am not a big fan of being in the ocean, but I have always lived close to one, or in places surrounded by lakes and marshes. As a sailor traveling the many oceans and seas around the world, I recognize this kinship with the sea at a spiritual level.

I was pleasantly surprised in my midday stroll. Birds were flying back and forth from the estuary to the ocean, diving for food. Moving up higher on the rocky walkway that separates the beach and the estuary there is a tremendous view of the estuary, the beach, Mexico and the pier.

Looking towards the estuary, there was a massive flock of birds of all feathers gathered together on a tiny patch of sandy land. Terns, gulls, pelicans, herons, geese and ducks all huddled together, unaware and uncaring of their differences. I have come to call this small aviary airport the estuary’s Time Square.

As you get down to the mouth of the river, you see it all. All you have to do is look around in any direction. Mexico seems a stone’s throw away, the mouth of the river is tumultuous and beautiful and as you look at the ocean there is rarely a time that you do not see seals and dolphins bobbing in and out of the ocean waves.

Forcing itself into the estuary, the ocean is a living bliss at the river’s mouth and you experience first-hand how nature works in balance. The mouth of the river is a great place to sit for as long as you are willing to observe the natural beauty where the land meets the sea. Take a stroll. Like me, you just might find a small piece of heaven on earth that can take you far away from the stressful hustle and bustle of the living we face every day.

Kidney Donor Starts Chain Reaction of Life


The Human Chord

Kidney donor starts chain reaction of life

By: Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Monday, November 21st, 2011 at 7:29 pm


Nancy Curtis, Lorena Rodriquez, Monique McCray and Ria Curtis


Selflessly, she gave the gift of life. Expecting nothing in return, she gained more than she could imagine. She also forged friendships to last a lifetime.

Working with patients on dialysis for 25 years, Lorena C. Rodriquez decided she could live without one of her healthy kidneys and became a donor. A medical assistant at Balboa Nephrology Medical Group Kidney Disease, Dialysis and Transplantation, Rodriquez contemplated this decision more than two years. Her goal was to get one person off the life-consuming grind of dialysis and off the organ transplant list. In April she gave her gift, but instead of elevating one life, she set in motion a chain of kidney transplants that changed three lives from Chula Vista to New York.

“It was because of my patients,” she said. “Where I work, many of them die, they became my family. They are like my parents, grandfather and friends. It is very sad when I see them go away. It does not matter to me who gets my kidney, as long as they need it.”

On the day of the operation, a wisp of a woman came running through the waiting room door, crying, laughing and hugging Lorena’s family and friends. With touching praises to God, she told everyone how grateful she was for Lorena’s gift of life.

“I am just so happy and full of God’s love,” said Nancy Curtis. “I have both my granddaughter Monique and my daughter Ria undergoing surgery right now. I am blessed and I love you for supporting your sister. She is saving my granddaughter’s life.”

A retired nurse in her 90s, Curtis took care of her granddaughter Monique McCray on dialysis for 14 months. McCray’s kidneys failed due to a complicated pregnancy with twins. With severe pre-eclampsia, she lost her first baby a few days before delivery of her “miracle baby,” a14-ounce daughter, born at 26 weeks. By December 2009 her kidneys failed. She said it was a blessing to find a donor so quickly when so many patients wait for years.

McCray called Rodriguez a “superstar” and told her how she could not wait to do all the things she could not do before. She said she now feels she can watch her daughter go to school, graduate and have children of her own.

“Lorena is part of my family now, she is a blessing,” said McCray. “I am so thankful for her. I can start thinking about the longevity of my life now. I have the opportunity of a new kidney and I am going to take care of it so I can live to see my daughter grow.”

Rodriguez said to her surprise, very few people are willing to donate kidneys unless it is for a family member. She hopes her example can change that. Our world needs more “altruistic donors”—no strings attached—to meet the demand for healthy kidneys.

“I am hoping people seeing me do this will understand it is safe to do and more people will become altruistic donors,” said Lorena. “We live in a culture where there is a reason for everything. Some things in life have no reason and people just do things because of who they are.”

In dealing with doubts of family and friends, the most difficult was trying to explain why she decided to be an altruistic kidney donor. She said she finally stopped trying to justify her actions and began asking questions herself.

“Why aren’t you doing this?” she said. “Inspiring people is what I am hoping to do. To let them know it is safe to donate a kidney. Give them extra life.”

Just a phone call away and two exits down Interstate 805, Lorena and Monique share more than a kidney. All because of an altruistic act of a single donor that believes in paying it forward. And the chain continues.


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