By Ivan Cazares
Dean Of Academic Affairs and Workforce Development, Alfonso Rios has been an influential member of the East Los Angeles College community for 17 years.
He worked as dean of ELAC’s South Gate Educational Center for 16 years and plays a major role in the campus’ development as an advocate for higher education in the Southeast region of Los Angeles.
His work at the South Gate campus inspired him to successfully campaign for a seat on South Gate’s city council this year. “I’m excited for this new journey. I look forward to serving the residents of the community of South Gate and the (southeast) region,” Rios said.
Rios said public safety is always a concern, and he plans to support projects to insure it. He also said he plans on developing youth programs that will help keep the youth off the streets.
“We’re (Southeast Los Angeles is) lacking in non-profits (organizations),” Rios said. He said adolescents who get into trouble with the law have to travel outside of the community for counseling.
He plans on providing youth with a community center for them to receive guidance. Rios also plans on continuing his support for the development of the South Gate campus. He said the new facility has the potential of becoming Los Angeles Community College District’s tenth college.
“I’m going to champion that. I’m loyal to ELAC. However, I believe every community deserves it’s own community college,” Rios said. Rios called the future South Gate facility a diamond in the rough that will help the city in its efforts to revitalize the surrounding area.
The campus is currently a building leased by the LACCD. It’s small and is funded by ELAC’s budget. However, ELAC has planned to replace the facility since 2003.
In an 2014 interview with Campus News, President Marvin Martinez said ELAC is working to achieve satellite center status for the South Gate campus, which will grant it its own funding when it opens the new facility.
To achieve satellite center status the South Gate campus needs to provide more of the reassurances provided at the main campus. ELAC would have to submit an application that would then have to be approved by the LACCD’s board of trustees.
The current time line on the project puts the time of completion in 2019. “He (Rios) is the solutions guy. He’s flexible. He adapts. When issues arise, he just goes with it and address them,” Armida Ornelas, Vice President of Continuing Education and Workforce Development said. Ornelas has worked with Rios for more than 15 years.
She said he is student-centered and community centered. Ornelas said that Rios seeking elected office is an extension of his activism. “I don’t think (campaigning) it was about him, or advancing his career. It’s about how dedicated he is to his community,” Ornelas said.
Rios said the South Gate campus has improved the quality of life in the surrounding community.
He plans on continuing to support the campus’ development. He’s an advocate for providing South Gate with the same resources the main campus has.
He said it’s important that students can complete all their required courses without commuting to the main campus. Rios said people are encouraged to take higher education courses because of the proximity of the campus to their homes. He said that taking college courses automatically makes people more employable, even if they don’t graduate.
Rios said his new position at ELAC and on South Gate’s city council will allow him to work with private industries that are always looking for employees with technical skills and some higher education.
The Southeast region has one of the youngest demographics in Los Angeles. There have been several K-12 schools built recently. However, the South Gate campus is the only higher education option in the area.
Though Rios and ELAC have made efforts to provide South Gate with the same resources as the main campus, it still lacks some resources due to budgetary constraints and lack of space.
Rios said the free shuttle to and from the main campus is an effort to compensate for that; it’s not enough