7/26/2015 - BARRIO LOGAN — While its main mission will be educating students hoping to enter new careers, the campus set to open in Barrio Logan this fall also will be a bit of a history museum celebrating the neighborhood and its people.
Inside the two-story lobby of San Diego Continuing Education’s Cesar Chavez campus, the latest sign of a neighborhood on the upswing, a display case will hold artifacts found during the building’s construction and various items associated with the life of Chavez, a civil rights champion and co-founder of the United Farm Workers.
Upstairs, the red brick-lined Chuey’s Lounge pays homage to Chuey’s, the iconic Barrio Logan restaurant that once occupied the site on Main Street and Cesar Chavez Parkway
Dating back even further, the ceiling will feature artwork inspired from astrological images used in Mayan calendars.
The subtle touches incorporated by architect Joe Martinez include brightly colored stairway walls that aren’t just yellow, but Aztec gold. An arrangement of windows forms an Huelga Eagle, a symbol used by the United Farm Workers, while another window was inspired by the Mayan symbol for zero.
Inside the classrooms, however, the emphasis is on the future.
After the school opens Sept. 8, students will take free classes that could lead to careers as caregivers, personal care assistants, nursing assistants and home health aide. Other free classes will be offered in business, citizenship, computers and IT, English as a second language, parent education and small business, entrepreneurship and management.
“It’s important to note that the programs that are expanding here are also high-demand programs in the industry,” said Continuing Education President Carlos Cortez.
Students also can earn high school diplomas or the equivalent at the new $50 million, 67,924-square-foot school.
The three-story building sits atop two levels of parking, contains 22 classrooms and is one of six Continuing Education campuses operated by the San Diego Community College District, which also runs City, Mesa and Miramar colleges.
The new Cesar Chavez campus will serve about 700 students, or about twice as many as the original Cesar Chavez campus on National Avenue and the Centre City campus on Park Boulevard, which both will close this summer.
The new building will significantly increase Continuing Education’s health care program, expanding from one class at Centre City to eight classrooms, complete with hospital beds, at Cesar Chavez, said Dean Robin Carvajal.
Walking through the building on a recent tour, campus project manager Scott Ellis of AECOM said community members offered many suggestions for the design of the building, which includes a large multipurpose room that will be open to the public for meetings, lectures, exercise classes or other activities.
“What I think is significant about this specific campus is the level of community involvement in developing this space,” Ellis said.
“In the planning process, it was extremely important that culturally, we were very sensitive and mindful about what the community wanted in terms of an aesthetic, in terms of academic program,” he said. “And really, to have a space that goes beyond being a postsecondary institution to one that becomes a space for the community to come together.”
In the classroom for family-home day care program, parents will learn with their children, who will have an outdoor play area that includes a spongy tricycle course.
Down the street from the campus, a 320-space parking structure is decorated with blown-up black and white photos of Chavez, farmer workers, children, and other pictures suggested by community members.
Marcos Aguilera, chairman of the Barrio Logan Association, said the new school is a sign of progress in the neighborhood.
“It’s a continuation of the pride of local culture and history,” he said.
The Vista-based Ironfist brewing opened a tasting room Friday and the Reef Bar and Mariscos el Pulpo seafood restaurant are preparing to open at the Mercado del Barrio. In addition, Aguilera said the K1 Speed go-cart track and Total Combat Paintball have brought family entertainment to the neighborhood.
Rachael Ortiz, executive director of Barrio Station, worked with Chavez for five years when he was leading a farmer workers’ strike and got emotional talking about the school.
“It’s a very personal thing to me,” she said. “I’m just starting crying, because it means a lot to me.”
Ortiz credits Chavez with helping inspire and guide local activists to protect Barrio Logan and to work with elected officials who supported their neighborhood.
She also found it particularly meaningful that caregiver students at the school someday may be members the United Domestic Workers of America, which Chavez helped organize.
“That building going up and all the things we’ve done, they’re symbols of resistance to being driven off this part of Indian country,” she said.
Ortiz, who knew Jesus “Chuey” Garcia when he operated his restaurant at the site, said she was moved when she saw the dining room named after him during a private tour given to her by the architect.
“I cried so much,” she said. “It’s so beautiful.”
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