By Mimi Pollack
Mid-City Center is an oasis in the heart of City Heights. It is the main center for the English as a second language program, part of San Diego Community College District‘s continuing education program. The six continuing education centers offer a variety of free classes, including ESL, computer, citizenship and various vocational classes. SDCE celebrated its 100th birthday last year.
Many of the people who live in City Heights are low income, recently arrived immigrants and refugees from all over the world who are finding their way in this new country. That is why City Heights plays such an important role as it is a place where they can come together and learn English, citizenship and computer skills, along with learning about each other’s cultures.
Last week, as a Cinco de Mayo celebration, students and faculty were treated to an extraordinary mini concert by local jazz singer Sacha Boutros, who grew up in Chula Vista. Being multilingual herself, Boutros sang in English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and even performed a little ditty in Arabic, much to the delight of some of the African students.
Many of the students had never been exposed to jazz before, and although some did not know what to make of it, most of them got into the groove of the music and her powerful voice and really enjoyed the performance.
It was also a way for the singer to give back to the community as this professional is used to singing in more glamorous venues and had never sung in front of a room full of students from so many different backgrounds. However, she sang as if she were at a five-star resort, not the lobby of a school. Many of them marveled at her voice while a few fidgeted. It was truly a cultural experience all around.
The evening event was sponsored by the Mid-City Associated Student Body which invited Boutros to come and perform. The ASB is made up of elected students along with a faculty advisor. However, at Mid-City, two ESL teachers, Kara Valenzuela and Harla Yesner, share the faculty adviser role.
The role of the ASB is to promote the interests and welfare of the students and the campus community. As faculty advisers, Valenzuela and Yesner run the elections, schedule the meetings, and help bring the ASB officers’ ideas to fruition. Those ideas include bringing in performers for the students to enjoy and enrich their lives, such as Sacha Boutros for Cinco de Mayo.
Mimi Pollack is an English as a Second Language teacher at Grossmont College and a freelance writer.
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