By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor
Irma Archuleta isn’t afraid of a challenge, especially when it comes to wearing different hats in her profession.
She’s been a recruitment specialist, an outreach coordinator, a college instructor and a vice president of student affairs at a community college, as well as other position in the education realm. She now is meeting another challenge. She is campaigning to keep her seat as a board member for the Long Beach Community College District Area 2 representative against longshore worker and journalism instructor Vivian Malauulu.
“I always take life as a challenge,” Archuleta, 63, said. “It’s about the challenges you take and the challenges that you are able to conquer.”
Archuleta retired as vice president of student affairs at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. this past October. She said she is running because she believes her professional and personal experience has helped qualify her for the position.
“What I bring to the table is my experience as an educator, my understanding of the community college system from all perspectives,” she said. “My opponent teaches one class. Her scope and breadth are very limited.”
Malauulu recently addressed that critique in a Facebook posting, citing her education and work experience as a journalist, administrator and teacher and her work as a longshore worker.
“The breadth and depth of my unique life experiences will enhance my service to students, staff, and the community of our local college board,” Malauulu wrote.
In a recent profile, Malauulu also alluded to Archulta’s appointment as suspect and “controversial.”
Archuleta explained that a community college has two options when a position is vacated: run an election, which would be extremely costly for college, especially if it is going to be only be for a term-and-a-half and only one seat, or, appoint someone, which is less costly and more expedient.
“That being said, people had the option to apply,” she said. “It wasn’t like it was handed to me. I had to compete for it.”
As a board member she is charged with helping to establish standards for the community college, addressing the needs of the college ensuring that the institution is operationally within federal and regulations through the president-superintendent. However, the college itself handles its day-to-day operation.
“The district that I represent — especially in the west side, central Long Beach — has the largest population of first-generation, lower-income [people],” Archuleta said. When we talk about the achievement gap, meaning that in the state of California the students who are progressing at a larger pace are the Asian students, are the white students. The Latino students, the African-American students are lagging behind. So the question is, ‘Why are these students lagging behind?’ As a board member, my job is to ask, ‘Why?’”
She believes community colleges are facing tough competition from private institution because they don’t cater as well to people who have no option but to work for a living.
“We are losing a lot students to these proprietary school, which will train in six weeks, 10 weeks, charge you hundreds of thousands of dollars and you end up in debt,” Archuleta said. “But the reason these schools are successful is because they cater to the students’ schedule so that the students can do what they need to do.
“We need to learn to cater to the students’ schedule, so that the student doesn’t lose out.”
In her time as a board member the Wrigley neighborhood resident has voted to expand the college free tuition program from one semester to a year, initiate a project labor agreement with local unions to train students and for the college to hire local labor in time of construction, and to undergo another bond measure to construct new buildings and update the college’s facilities.
If elected, she want ensure greater access to programs and services, help students to reach their educational objectives within a reasonable time frame, work with educational partners to help subsidize the price of textbooks and provide services to undocumented students.
“Until all students have access to education, regardless of their residence status, we are not going to have equality or equity … in education,” she said.
College education is very near and dear to the second-generation Chicana. As young child her maternal grandmother, and family matriarch, instilled the importance of education to all of her children and grandchildren. But growing up in the 60s, in a time when education for people color was not encouraged in the school systems, made reaching her goals more difficult.
“The Chicano movement was gaining momentum, inspired by, of course, the black movement,” Archuleta said. “The students had walked out of Roosevelt High School, Garfield High School, demanding quality education.”
She remembers being one of two Latinos who were in English and Algebra at Paramount High School.
“The girls were put into typing and shorthand … and the guys were put into auto mechanics and woodshop, but none of us were being tracked into college prep courses.”
She ended up becoming the first Chicana to receive the Pell Grant scholarship in her high school. That year, she received other scholarships, but her counselors never spoke to her or any of her Latino classmates about going to college.
“Never said, what we had to do, what the admission process was, nada, nada, nada,” Archuleta said.
Had it not been for a woman who she met at a scholarship reception, Archuleta wouldn’t have even known that she needed to enroll in a college in order to receive her scholarships. The next day the woman showed up at her door with a bunch of pamphlets and helped guide her to enroll at Compton Community College.
Archuleta’s campaign site: www.IrmaArcheleta.com
Malauulu’s campaign site: vivianmalauulu.nationbuilder.com