Southwestern College

Programs: Dental Hygiene | EMT/Paramedic | Fire Science | Medical Laboratory Technician | Nursing | Police Academy

Dental Hygiene

The Dental Hygiene program at the Higher Education Center in National City is the only program in San Diego County offered at a public institution of higher education, and it is designed to prepare students for their careers as dental hygienists.

The Dental Hygiene program promotes an education that that will instruct students in oral wellness and prepare them to provide a wide range of oral health services while upholding a degree of professionalism in a dental office or clinic setting.

Director Vickie Kimbrough-Walls said her program is attractive because it is cost effective while offering rigorous educational standards.

“Once they get into the program, they get the same education as a four-year program for a fraction of the cost,” said Kimbrough-Walls.

The curriculum is upheld by state and national standards and is taught by passionate local professionals who work closely and individually with students to ensure success.

The two-year program has a 100% pass rate on state and national dental hygiene exams for its graduates. Classes are taught by faculty who are local professionals, many of whom have been with the program for 12 years. Kimbrough-Walls said she believes these are the reasons for the success of the program.
“It’s the curriculum,” she said. “It’s held up by national education standards and the dedication of our faculty.”

Students have the ability to perform oral health services on each other as well as members of the community, under close supervision and guidance of professors.

A wide range of career options are available as dental hygienists can provide services in public health settings, nursing facilities and mobile clinics. The career ladder also includes earning the skills and qualifications to advance into more administrative or educational roles.

The Emergency Medical Technology (EMT) and Paramedic Program at the Higher Education Center in Otay Mesa offers advanced education, experience and guidance with 100-percent employment placement.

The one-semester EMT program trains students to render emergency medical care using the proper techniques and becoming excellent first responders. Students can go on to work in ambulances, fire stations, police departments or as lifeguards.

After a year of full-time experience working as a first responder, students can apply to the Paramedic Program at the Higher Education Center in Otay Mesa.

The 13-month program begins every August and is designed to mold students into confident leaders in emergency medical situations.

The didactic program has been nationally accredited for more than a decade and produces desirable graduates who are in high demand in the workforce.

The program holds a 98 percent pass rate on student’s first attempt at the national exam, and 100 percent of students who have actively sought employment have found it in various fields.

Of the five programs in San Diego County, Otay Mesa holds the richest academic acumen.

“We are the oldest community college program in the county and this entire program is taught by people who actually work as paramedics,” said Director Devin Price. “We can take the experiences they have and bring them back to the classroom.”

Part of the training is a requirement to do community outreach projects that support a well-rounded paramedic education.

“If you want to be a good paramedic, we’ll teach you how to be one,” said Price.

Fire Science

The Fire Science program at the Higher Education Center in Otay Mesa prepares students for the diverse environment of fire service. Students are trained by local professionals and receive excellent physical and mental training to be the next great generation of fire service men and women.

The program covers a wide range of instruction including fire service history, theory and practice of fire technology, basic chemistry of fire, physics, fire protection laws and ordinances, detection and prevention of fire. For the convenience of students, the program offers morning and evening classes, as well as online classes to assist any type of student.

The Fire Science Program also offers work experience through a partnership with various fire departments from the community. Students are able to receive hands-on training, work closely with professional firefighters, and be supervised and evaluated by a fire captain all while receiving credits towards their degree.

The Fire Science program prides itself on the success of its students. The program will guide and prepare students for the entry level examination while offering tutoring, career counseling and job placement to ensure every student becomes successful.

Firefighters must have tremendous interpersonal skills, be able to work under stressful situations and as part of a diverse group of people, all while being in top physical condition.


Medical Laboratory Technician

The Medical Laboratory Technician program at the Higher Education Center in National City prepares students for the ever-growing industry of medical laboratory technicians. Graduates are prepared to perform clinical laboratory testing and provide information used in diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.

The program at National City is one of only two in California that is nationally accredited—allowing students to be fully qualified for medical laboratory technician jobs in all 50 states. One hundred percent of students find immediate employment upon graduating.

The 18-month program begins each fall semester and consists of lectures and laboratory experiences, as well as six months of practical experiences at clinical laboratories.

The curriculum is taught by former or current medical technologists, who provide great insight and expertise.

“The instructors have 20 to 30 years of experience in the lab,” said Director Luis A. Nunez, Jr. “They bring that to the college and share that wisdom and experience with the students. They’re able to apply examples, and a lot of that story telling is included in the training.”

The large demand for technicians, the experience of the instructors and the nationally accredited curriculum has led to full employment for the program’s graduates.

“The success rate is huge,” said Nunez. “We’re recognized in the state as one of the premier programs. The standards are very high because we met national standards that are above and beyond the state standards.”


The Nursing and Health Occupations program at Otay Mesa is prepared to guide a student into multiple career pathways that match his or her passions. With 33 percent of all jobs in the U.S. in the health care industry, Southwestern College’s Nursing and Health Occupation program offers seven different programs, allowing student to pursue any field in the health care industry.

Director Cathy McJannet said that the program’s primary focus is to prepare students through academics and practicum. As a result, the program enjoys an 87% pass rate for graduates taking the rigorous and complex national nursing exam.

“We’re preparing people in this program to work as a registered nurse or to land almost immediate employment in any of these health fields,” McJannet said.

The program is taught by passionate professionals—people currently working in the field—who can update the programs’ curriculum to the ever-changing field. Students also are sent into the community as part of the curriculum.

“Our students are really well prepared when they graduate because they get about 15 hours a week in a hospital,” McJannet said.

Students enrolled in Southwestern College’s program are also co-enrolled in San Diego State University’s Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program. This partnership is the first in San Diego County, and allows Southwestern College students a cost-effective way to earn their degree.

“It’s really important in nursing that students go on to get their Bachelor’s degree,” said McJannet. “Students in their 4th semester in the nursing program are taking their first semester of their Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing at SDSU.”

McJannet says program graduates are well prepared to take advantage of the endless opportunities in health care.

“There are hundreds of different options, depending on what your personality is and what you want to do,” McJannet said.

In addition to academic support and mentorship, the program works to help support students financially to let them focus on their academics.

“In the last five years we’ve had over $50,000 dollars in scholarships for our students,” said McJannet. “We work really hard to support our students so they can get through the program.”

Police Academy

The Southwestern College Police Academy prides itself with offering extensive training in an extremely competitive field. Graduates are instilled with knowledge and values that will prepare them for the high expectations required of peace officers.

The 10-1/2 month program prepares students for a wide range of fields in law enforcement, with up-to-date curriculum that keeps the program certified.

“We focus on the recruits so that they are successful,” said Elizabeth Valdez, Administrative Assistant to the Police Academy. “Of the academies in San Diego County we prepare students the best.”
With 35 instructors that work full-time in various law enforcement agencies, students get specialty training by local professionals and insight into the industry.

Students are overseen by training officers, professionals who are part of local organizations such as SWAT teams, detectives and officers. Training officers act as mentors to the trainees and add to the rigorous discipline while providing guidance, insight and direction.

With over 26 hiring agencies connected with the Southwestern College Police Academy, students are more than well-prepared through a training that creates exceptional skills—psychologically, physically and morally.

In addition to the academy, Southwestern College offers a wide range of courses in administrative justice that serve as complimentary skills to students, helping them become more attractive candidates in the local work force.

“We all have to give more than 100 percent,” said Valdez. “We always get recruits who come back and tell us that what they learned here made things easier for them in the future”

Academies begin every January and July at the Higher Education Center in Otay Mesa.
Last updated: 3/7/2013 9:11:21 AM