From kindergarten through community college, the public education system in Santa Ana has been decimated by budget cuts.
And yet, Santa Ana mayoral candidate Alfredo Amezcua, who was born and raised in the city and was formerly a Rancho Santiago Community College District board of trustees member and the college district's attorney, is optimistic about the future.
In an interview with the Weekly, Amezcua says things can only get better. Having recently met with Santa Ana College (SAC) students concerned about reduced funding, he also shared his ideas about aiding secondary education to preserve the opportunity for everyone to attain a college degree.
OC Weekly: To start off, what do you think about SAC and its current struggles?
Alfredo Amezcua: Well, as you may know, I have first-hand experience with the budget. I left the board over a year ago, and when I left the budget was properly done, we didn't receive the notice from the state about the budget cuts back then.
But, in general, there are two reason why the community colleges are a great deal of help. Financially speaking, students and parents can't make the jump after high school graduation, so it's not because of the students' grade point averages but their income. I mean, I think that one reason the community colleges are so important is because they act as springboards, they are safety nets for students that need to save up and didn't have the opportunity to attain scholarships.
How did you feel about SAC students reaching out to you?
I was so glad! When Alex Flores and Richard Santana came to my office and asked to speak to me about what can be done to save classes, I was thrilled. I am so pleased with students raising private money. They [Flores and Santana] have motivated students to pursue higher education through fund-raising. It is no longer about what's being cut but about students pursuing a higher education. Although it is unfortunate that they can't just concentrate on their classes.
At the Jan. 19 SAC Student Government meeting, you had the opportunity to sit down with students and speak to them about their thoughts to improve the college. Someone mentioned an educational commuter. What do you think about this?
Implementing an educational commuter for SAC is a big change. Public transportation establishes a system that responds to the needs of the community. One thing that can be done is explore ways that we could work with the Orange County Transportation Authority and find ways to provide a reduction on fares for SAC students. This would not only help students, but it would help our environment and be financially beneficial for the student community. I would definitely be interested in doing a bus scholarship for students that don't have transportation so that they may ride the bus for free while in school.
Should there be a change in reaching out to new students?
I think we need to motivate students, we need to show them that a four-year-institution is the way to go. It is the local educational system that provides help to our business community when students pursue a higher degree.
Secondary education is seeing a lot of student apathy. What do you think can be done to change this in Santa Ana?
You mentioned how you can't believe there is only one library in Santa Ana. Any ideas on how to change that?
I want to ask for donations from the great libraries of the world, so that this can occur. We need to bring technology into the classroom because this is what the kids will be facing in their lives.