Tag Archives: Mayor Jonathan Rothschild

Realizing the American Dream

With new citizens Viri and Simin

With new citizens Viriviana and Simin (right)

Earlier this week, I joined with business, education and government partners at an important announcement by Mayor Jonathan Rothschild: Tucson would join more than two dozen major U.S. cities in the Cities for Citizenship initiative.

The mayor explained that people who want to become U.S. citizens can face educational and financial hurdles, and that Cities for Citizenship would support those who want to take on the rights and responsibilities that citizenship entails.

The announcement was made at the College’s El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center. It was an appropriate venue, as PCC has for years been a provider of effective citizenship education.

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After the announcement, Xail Hernandez, a PCC instructor in English Language Acquisition for Adults who also works with our AmeriCorps program, shared information.

Our citizenship classes are part of our Adult Basic Education for College & Career division. All of our classes, including citizenship classes, are free and open to everyone. This year 366 students received more than 3,300 hours on Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship instruction at classes taught at the El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center, El Rio Learning Center, and the 29th Street Coalition Center, as well as several area libraries.

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Simin and Linda, a volunteer citizenship instructor

Citizenship instructors are trained volunteers who get ongoing support and professional development.  We have some who have volunteered with us for over 15 years.

About 60 of our students have become citizens this year, and two were acknowledged during the announcement of the initiative.

This topic is personal for me. My mother came to the U.S. from South Korea in the 1960s, seeking her vision of the American Dream. My family’s story is, at its essence, similar to hundreds of millions of stories in our great country. As one speaker put it, virtually all of us are descended from immigrants.

PCC is eager to help provide the education component to the Cities for Citizenship initiative. We are proud to join with the Mayor’s Office, Chicanos Por La Causa, Citi, Vantage West Credit Union, Pima County Library and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to empower new citizens who contribute to the ongoing prosperity and sustainability of our nation.

Rebuilding our binational ties and strategic relationship with Mexico

Between October 24 and 26, I traveled to Mexico City and the City of León, in central Mexico, as part of a delegation with the City of Tucson, Chicanos Por La Causa, Visit Tucson, the Mexican Consulate in Tucson, and Start Up Tucson. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the highlight of our mission was a meeting with the former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, who hosted us in his Foundation, Centro Fox.

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Additionally, we had other high-level meetings with government officials that I would like to underscore.

The first day of our mission, we met with the Undersecretary for Higher Education of the Ministry of Education (SEP), Dr. Salvador Jara, and with the national CEO for public polytechnic universities, Héctor Arreola (also under SEP). The two men have supported Pima’s partnerships with Mexican educational institutions and have funded several groups of students who have come to PCC to study short term programs. The Ministry of Education has developed a new technical higher education model that emphasizes bilingualism, internationalization and sustainability, making PCC a partner in the United States. Mexico is now one of the world’s top countries for graduates in engineering, manufacturing and construction (more than Canada, Germany, or France), while total university enrollment has tripled in 30 years to almost three million students. Dr. Jara and Mr. Arreola were awarded the United States-Mexico Friendship Commendation, a recognition from the City of Tucson and Pima Community College, for advancing our binational links. We discussed the possibility of developing study abroad programs for PCC students who are interested in learning or improving their Spanish, Faculty-led programs, and dual degrees. See Undersecretary Jara’s Tweet

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From left to right: Emilio Gaynor, Director of International Development, Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC); David Adame President & CEO of CPLC; Ricardo Castro-Salazar; PCC’s VP for International Development; Salvador Jara, Undersecretary for Higher Education of Mexico; Jonathan Rothschild, Mayor of Tucson; Lee Lambert, PCC Chancellor; and Héctor Arreola, National CEO for Public Polytechnic Universities of Mexico.

 

Mayor Rothschild, Consul Pineda, and I also had a private meeting with Paulo Carreño, the Undersecretary for North America of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, who emphasized the strategic relationship that Mexico and the United States have in the global arena. The Ministry, through its Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME), has awarded PCC scholarship grants for $116,000.00, which have helped many of our students with financial need. Furthermore, with the support of Consul Pineda, PCC has obtained scholarship funds from the private organization Juntos Podemos in the amount of $64,000.00. Ricardo Castro-Salazar, PCC’s Vice President for International Development, has been External Advisor to the Mexican Government through IME and has worked closely with the Mexican Consul to win these grants. This has given Pima a prominent position among US community colleges and a unique relationship with Mexican institutions. We expect to win additional grants in the coming months.

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The same morning, we had the opportunity to have a conversation with Dr. Martha Navarro, CEO of the Mexican Agency for International Cooperation and Development. She is also the head of Proyecta 100,000, the Mexican counterpart of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative by Presidents Obama and Peña. Proyecta has funded thousands of scholarships for Mexican students to attend US educational institutions, including several groups of students who have attended Pima College. Dr. Navarro reiterated the Mexican government’s approach to US-Mexico collaboration, as complementary partners in the global arena, where Mexico could become the sixth largest economy in the world by the year 2050. She also received a formal recognition from Mayor Rothschild and myself for advancing educational diplomacy and binational friendship.

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Our fourth and final recognition was given to a great friend of Pima College, Ms. Maggie Suárez, who has been instrumental for our participation in the prestigious SEP-Bécalos-Santander international program. PCC is one of only five community colleges in the US participating in the program, through which we have hosted 177 international students since fall 2014. The program is possible through a partnership between the Mexican Ministry of Education, Televisa Foundation, and Santander Bank. Televisa is the largest telecommunications conglomerate in the Spanish-speaking world and Ms. Suárez is the head of educational programs for its foundation. Ms. Suárez let me know that Televisa Foundation was working on the creation of new international educational programs and she wants PCC to be part of them. This fall, PCC was selected to host 70 scholarship holders from 13 different universities in Mexico. Although one student could not make it, this is the largest cohort we have hosted, confirming our strengthening partnership.

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University of Guanajuato, Mexico

In the evening, we took a plane to the City of León, a rapidly developing city with an extensive automotive cluster in the State of Guanajuato, where President Fox’s Foundation is located. On Tuesday, we would visit Centro Fox, learn about the region’s opportunities, and meet with President Fox. Dr. Ian Roark, PCC’s Vice President for Workforce Development, is working in collaboration with Martha Beltran, CEO of the Academic and Research Center at Centro Fox, exploring potential partnerships with PCC.

 

On Wednesday 26th, we met with Ricardo Mújica, the CEO of the Slim Foundation. Carlos Slim, considered the richest man in the world, has funded numerous cultural and educational projects throughout Mexico. His Foundation’s philosophy is based on Mr. Slim’s premise that philanthropic organizations do not solve poverty and other world challenges, but knowledge does. Thus, it focuses on educational and healthcare initiatives. Fundación Slim is a 30-year old institution with an endowment of $5.5 billion. We learned about the Foundation’s free online educational platform: Aprende.org, aimed at expanding opportunities to anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection.

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Left, Chancellor Lambert and VP Roark at Plaza Carso, in Mexico City, where Slim Foundation is located.

Our last meeting was with Ms. Rebecca Thompson, Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Mexico, as well as Nathalie Scharf and Martha Sánchez from the US Commercial Service. In the past two years, PCC has developed a strong relationship with the Department of State and the US Embassy in Mexico. The Embassy has supported PCC’s programs with Mexico by subsidizing visas for scholarship holders and providing resources toward the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative. Ms. Thompson was enthusiastic about our meeting and has connected PCC with new institutions who want to work with US colleges.

At the end of this intense work agenda, I was pleased to learn that our relationship with Mexico is now acknowledged by numerous institutions and organizations in this vast nation, which is Arizona’s number one commercial partner and one of Tucson’s main sources of tourism and foreign spending. PCC is now recognized in many regions across this country and I was proud to hear this not just from one, but from three different sources at our meetings with the Mexican Ministry of Education, the Slim Foundation, and US Embassy in Mexico. Thanks to this recognition, we have received grants from the US Department of State, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations, and a private international donor. As expressed by Ms. Thompson, from the US Embassy, “Pima is one of our star colleges in Mexico.”

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Representatives from the US Embassy and the US Commercial Service in Mexico.

Trip to Israel

Members of the Ethiopian National Project

Members of the Ethiopian National Project

I recently returned from a community leadership mission to Israel coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and led by Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. My primary focus was to learn more about the State of Israel’s human development system and potential partnerships that might be available to Pima Community College.  Important aspects of this visit included addressing challenges associated with Israel’s youth, immigrant communities, and diversity.

At the Western Wall with a delegation including Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild

At the Western Wall with a delegation including Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild

I learned that the talent development system in Israel is grounded in a larger commitment to social justice with broad participation from employers, educators, community organizations, and concerned individuals from Israel and the USA. This commitment is an important counterbalance to a public education system that appears overwhelmed by large class sizes (up to 40 students per teacher), and limited state investment compared to their defense industry.

My first exposure was with Liliyot Restaurant, a leading culinary institution.  One aspect of their uniqueness centers on their work with at-risk youth.  As noted on their web site, liliyot.co.il, “Every year Liliyot Restaurant trains and employs 15 high school drop-outs, who receive instruction, supervision, and employment for a period of up to a year and half.”  Some of the keys to success of this initiative include partnerships between the ELEM-Israel organization (http://www.elem.org.il/english/) and the Liliyot Group, including the involvement of a full-time social worker and a caring, committed team of professionals at the Liliyot Restaurant.

We visited the Tel Nof Air Force Base where we met the elite Rescue Training Unit 669, an airborne combat search-and-rescue team of the Israelis Defense Forces (idfblog.com). The training of this elite unit takes about 18 months.  This unit has a special connection to Tucson, because the unit has participated in joint training exercises with similar units here in our community.  Some members of this unit will be returning to Tucson in the future.  It is my hope to connect members of PCC’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute with this elite group.

We met with the program staff, faculty and students of the Ethiopian National Project (ENP).  This project “unites global Jewry, the Government of Israel, and the Ethiopian-Israeli community in its mission to advance the integration of Ethiopian-Israelis into Israeli society” (enp.org.il). We had an opportunity to interact with the students in a small group setting.  I was deeply inspired by their passion and commitment to learning.

We heard student testimonials about the positive impact the ENP is having on their lives.  One of the stories that stood out for me was of a male student who was not taking his studies seriously. He was known for not participating in class and other school activities, and sometimes would skip school.  Thanks to the coordinator of the ENP’s Scholastic Assistance Program checking in with the student’s teachers, an intervention strategy was developed.  This included the coordinator going out to the student’s neighborhood to find out was going on with him.  Thanks to the care, commitment and passion of the coordinator taking the time understand the familial dynamics, the student is back on a path to success.

We also learned about Israeli and Arab challenges from the founders of Alpha Omega, an Arab start-up company (alphaomega-eng.com).  The co-founders attended a well-regarded Israeli university, but following graduation, still had difficulty finding meaningful work.  Eventually they decided to start up what eventually became a highly successful medical device company focused on neurology and degenerative disease.  Another aspect of their story that struck me was their commitment to their employees and community. They encourage their employees to start their own businesses.  They are very involved with community organizations.

We had a fascinating visit with the BioBee Biological Systems in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (www.BioBee.com).  They are the world’s leading experts on mass production and implementation of beneficial insects and mites as an alternative to chemical pesticides used in agriculture  They run a very sophisticated operation that attracts leading experts to their kibbutz.  Additionally, they invest heavily in the training and development of their front-line team.

I left Israel feeling inspired and affirmed in my decision to work in higher education.  The U.S. and Israel have much that they can learn from each other, but one thing is common to both countries:  Student success happens when educators and community members care enough to develop personal relationships with students.

Building Community 2015

From left: Edmund Marquez, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Chancellor Lee D. Lambert, Building Community emcee Dan Marries.

From left: PCC Foundation Board of Directors Member Edmund Marquez, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Chancellor Lee D. Lambert, Building Community emcee Dan Marries.

I had the privilege of delivering keynote remarks at the Pima Community College Foundation’s Building Community luncheon Feb. 6 at the Westin La Paloma resort. The more than 400 leaders of education, business and industry, government and community organizations who attended learned more about how PCC works with its partners to improve individual lives and spark economic development in the region.

This was the second Building Community luncheon, and in one major respect, much has changed since last year’s inaugural event. I told the audience that, thanks to the efforts of some 300 employees, students and community members, PCC is now well-positioned to successfully emerge from probation, a sanction placed on the College by our accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, in April 2013. Final word on our status comes later this month, and I have every reason to believe that the College has done the work to successfully comply with HLC standards and regain its fullest degree of confidence.

I explained to the audience the initiatives the College is undertaking to bridge that gaps that pose major challenges to the success of higher education institutions across the U.S.: gaps in student achievement, skills, technology, sustainability and global awareness. However, the  powerful collaborations that yield tangible successes for our students formed the most memorable part of the event. I want to relate just a few stories.

Dean West, 27, grew up in Longview, Wash., a small town where the paper mill was the major employer. After getting his GED, he immediately joined the Army, and worked in weapons maintenance. Dean moved to Tucson to be with family. An acquaintance told him about PCC. He is graduating with a degree in Computer Aided Drafting Design. While at PCC, he connected with his current employer, a manufacturer. “I was blessed to have instructors who have high standards and a highly structured environment,” he says, adding that his military experience set him up for academic success at Pima. “I have my dream job,” he says, and he plans to attend UA on the G.I. Bill.

Alec Moreno is a Tucson High School graduate. He has four siblings, and his family is of modest means. He was worried about finding the money for college after the Great Recession took a severe toll on the family’s finances. But PCC Foundation scholarships (about $1,400 he says) have made a big difference. “Pima’s tuition is very affordable, but coming from a large family, every dollar counts.” He plans to study engineering at UA, and hopes to get a master’s in education to give back to the community. When he graduates UA, he will be first member of his family to get a bachelor’s degree. He will tell his story while in Washington, D.C., this week to meet federal legislators and officials.

Ashley Rodriguez is a Sunnyside High School graduate who joined the military. Following her service she attended other colleges and still had a hard time finding a career. Then one day by chance she saw a piece of paper on the floor. She picked it up and learned about Pima’s Aviation Technology program. The road through the rigorous program had its twists and turns, but now she is working for Bombardier.

Similar stories were told by Gloria Bloomer, chair of the PCC Foundation Board of Directors. A video segment produced by PCCTV showed the close relationship between the College and employers Suddath Relocation Systems and Radiology Ltd. Gloria introduced David Lee, who graduated from our Radiologic Technology program and works for Radiology Ltd. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild put our contributions into perspective when he described how PCC plays a key role his “Five T’s” program of development by preparing Tucsonans for the middle class jobs that will provide the backbone of our community.

Renowned educator Marian Wright Edelman said, “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” Working together with our partners in Tucson, Arizona and across the nation, we can achieve that goal, and propel Tucson to new era of economic development.