By Agustin Ugalde Jr.
Last week as I was waiting on Floral and Atlantic for a traffic light, a young man in a Statue of Liberty costume caught my eye.
This young person who was maybe 21, or 22 years old, but certainly no older than 25, was merrily twirling a “come in and check our rates” sign for a tax business.
Anyone who commutes in Southern California has undoubtedly seen these young people plying their trade in an effort to make a buck or two.
The question that came to mind is who would be desperate enough to take a job that requires wearing a ridiculous costume and then putting yourself on display in front of all to see?
The answer to that question is simple; it is a person that possesses absolutely no viable occupational skills, or who is part of society’s poorest and least educated among us.
This type of work represents the worse of our capitalist system with its exploitation of the poor and indigent by having them dress in outrageous costumes to act like some sort of performing monkey.
It’s degrading, demeaning and dehumanizing.
In some ways, though, these individuals are to be commended for taking a job that most people wouldn’t consider, including most of the unemployed.
As I was sitting there I found myself thinking that this person’s ticket out of this demeaning situation was just a block away.
I wanted to get out of my car to tell him that East Los Angeles College has an entire network of professionals that can help him move forward with his life.
I wanted to tell him that all he needed was a high school diploma and that if he didn’t have that, there are people on campus that will help him get the equivalent.
I wanted to tell him that he needn’t do this type of work any longer.
Eventually, I did not because, for one thing, it wasn’t any of my business, but mostly because he needs to find his own way.
Another reason was that there existed the possibility that this person had no interest in seeking help and would have resented my approach.
I would also guess that there are probably those who consider this type of work artistic and that maybe this guy doesn’t want to be “saved.”
Of course if that is the case then fine; more power to him.
However, in the vast majority of the time, my feeling is that this person needs help – the kind of help that is readily available on campus.
If only he knew the services available here.
If he were in need of money, there is financial aid, fee waivers, work study, and job counseling and placement.
If it is academic aid that he needed there is free tutoring at the Learning Assistance Center, Math Lab and Writing Center and most departments have their own tutors.
Nearly all departments offer scholarships for its students as an incentive to continue and excel in their particular fields.
Women with children can find aid through the CalWorks program that is designed to help those whose income is below state limits.
Those who have language, social, economic and educational disadvantages can take advantage of the EOP&S program that offers academic and support counseling, financial aid and other support services.
The DSPS program provides educational and vocational support services for students with disabilities.
DSPS services include alternative testing, special parking, note takers, readers, interpreters, tutors mobility aids and equipment loans.
Counselors are in place to help guide students choose the best course to pursue based on the student’s individual strengths.
The Transfer Center will assist students who have progressed in their studies sufficiently enough to take the next step in their academic career at a four-year university.
Veterans can take advantage of the new Vet Center in the E1 building that promises to help those special people who have served in the military and are now re-entering society.
What it comes down to is that there are no excuses to not attend ELAC.
The professional educators on campus have only one purpose and that is to help students achieve their potential.
ELAC has launched countless careers in its nearly 70-year history and continues to do so to this day.
Whether students are looking to transfer to four-year programs, earn an Associate’s Degree, or complete a certificate program, ELAC is the place to start.
It doesn’t matter if people have underachieved in their lives, ELAC is forgiving. It is a place for second chances. It is a place to start anew. It is a place where no excuses are accepted.
If only our friend on the corner of Floral and Atlantic knew what ELAC had to offer he might shed his costume and some day don a different one, a cap and gown on graduation day.