Southwestern College reopening to students and community

Dr. Mark Sanchez

The energy has been electric on Southwestern College’s campuses with the return of students to in-person classes. When classes began Aug. 23, one quarter of them offered face-to-face options, and our students responded overwhelmingly by fully enrolling in those classes to capacity.

In re-opening Southwestern, college leadership has had to be nimble to respond to the ever-changing environment the pandemic has created. We have been intentional in implementing safety protocols that protect the health and well-being of our students and employees.

We have required that employees and students returning for face-to-face work and classes be vaccinated. We allow for medical and religious exemptions, and I am happy to report that all those returning last month verified their status. It was a Herculean effort by our Student Services personnel to help students upload their vaccination status or to help enroll them in an online class, and well worth it to support our students.

Our attention has now turned to encouraging students who may not have been vaccinated to do so, even if they are taking only online classes. We partnered with San Ysidro Health to host vaccination clinics during the first two weeks of the semester. We have also offered the incentive of a $100 gift card to our college bookstore for those students who have uploaded their vaccination status.

San Diego County Health and Human Services reports that those aged 20-29 still have one of the lowest vaccination rates in San Diego County. That age group is also the largest segment of our student population, and it is our responsibility to help build immunity in our community.

While we will continue to encourage our students to get vaccinated, Southwestern College still has many opportunities for our community to enroll in classes. We have ongoing continuing education classes–many of them free–that enroll year-round. We will also begin our next eight-week session of courses beginning Oct. 11. For more information, log into

Special Ceremonies
On Friday, Sept. 10, we will dedicate our new Public Safety Training Center at the Higher Education Center at Otay Mesa. The 2 p.m. event will also include a 9/11 commemoration ceremony by our first responder students.

The $29 million training center is a facility to behold. It includes the only multi-story live fire training tower on a community college in all of San Diego and Imperial counties. There is also a single-story scenario apartment simulator to allow fire, police and EMT/paramedic students to simulate real-life scenarios they will find in the field.

There is still time to RSVP at

Trustee Elections Are Changing

Southwestern College Governing Board elections will be moving from at-large elections to specific trustee area districts beginning with the November 2022 election. Over the next two months we will be reaching out to residents to get their ideas of how the district lines should be drawn.

Some of the community input we are seeking as we develop district maps is how to best serve each distinct community. Some overall considerations could be drawing lines around neighborhoods or cities, transportation routes, residents who share common languages or interests. We’ll be promoting updates at the district website:

Now, more than ever, Southwestern College wants to continue to find ways to be a reflection of our diverse community.

Dr. Mark Sanchez is superintendent/president of Southwestern College.

Southwestern College reopening to students and community