On September 11, 2001, while sitting in a high school classroom, Richard Garcia witnessed the World Trade Center in New York City catch fire and collapse. That day, Garcia marched into a recruitment office to join the Marine Corps. “I was only 17, so my dad didn’t want to sign for me at first,” said Garcia. “I told him he served in the Marine Corps, so why can’t I?” Without further argument, Garcia’s dad signed the release and sent his son off to boot camp. Garcia spent almost a decade in the Marine Corps, including a tour in Afghanistan. In 2011, he left as a sergeant and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“After I left the corps, I still had the urge to protect and serve,” said Garcia, who applied to the Los Angeles Police Academy while volunteering for the LAPD’s gang unit. After a year and half with no word from the academy, Garcia enrolled in a private protection detail program. When he finished, he waited for job offers, which never came. Garcia then found MiraCosta College’s Homeland Security Program. “MiraCosta College pretty much saved me from going into debt,” said Garcia. “The program is approved by the US Department of Veterans Affairs so I got to use my GI Bill.” Three weeks after finishing the program, Garcia received a job offer. Today, he works as a team leader for a private company in Los Angeles.
Garcia now joins 250 other veterans who have graduated from the college’s Homeland Security Program and have found careers as armed guards or personal security detail. “Many veterans went into the military originally because they have a strong desire to protect and serve. They come out of the military and they still have that desire,” said Linda Kurokawa, director of Community Education and Workforce Development. “Being able to get them into the civilian protector security position is really valuable because they get to defend and protect while also working in well-paying jobs.”
In 2013, to help develop and expand programs like Homeland Security, the US Department of Labor awarded MiraCosta College a $2.75 million grant. In 2014, the college teamed up with the City of Carlsbad to identify a location for a new Technology Career Institute (TCI) where students, including military veterans and the unemployed, will be trained to fill a growing demand for industrial technicians in North San Diego County. “The Technology Career Institute will benefit Carlsbad businesses and businesses throughout the region by providing much-needed training and workforce development, while offering local residents a convenient option for gaining highly marketable, advanced machining and manufacturing skills,” said City of Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall. “This kind of partnership is a great example of what can be achieved when organizations collaborate toward common goals.”
The TCI houses programs like Homeland Security, as well programs that train students to work in industries such as high-tech manufacturing, maritime technology and biotech manufacturing. The institute will also expand the college’s Machinist Certificate Program and create industry-recognized electronics engineering technician and robotics/automation certificate programs. Plus, the TCI offers accelerated 12- to 16-week programs in which students are immersed in hands-on, skills-based environments. The building is also a new home to the San Diego North Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which MiraCosta College has hosted since 1999. The SBDC provides resources, workshops and leadership programs for growing and established small businesses—an important part of MiraCosta College’s mission of strengthening the economic well-being of the community.
In 2014, the SBDC, through 150 workshops and 3,182 hours of counseling, helped small businesses obtain $4.4 million in financing, increase sales by $14.3 million, win government contracts of $9.9 million, and create/retain 366 jobs. “The new location is central, which will allow the SBDC to better serve our clients,” said SBDC Director Sudershan Shaunak. For Community Education and Workforce Development, the new location provides a better way to offer exemplary programs, a service only possible through the support of the community it serves. In fact, since 2008, the program has received more than $440,000 in donations from local North County businesses, organizations, high schools and community members. “When industry and philanthropic organizations donate funds to our department, it provides the seed money to develop and implement high-level programs that provide critically needed skills training for both unemployed and incumbent workers,” said Kurokawa. “We are truly grateful that our San Diego community understands and is generous in its giving."
On Tuesday, May 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., MiraCosta College and the City of Carlsbad will host an open house at the Technology Career Institute, 2075 Las Palmas Drive, Carlsbad. For more information, contact Linda Kurokawa.
This story was featured in the spring edition of MiraCosta College Transforming Lives. To subscribe to this print publication, email the MiraCosta College Foundation.