Students and faculty at Fullerton College welcomed their first female president Friday with mariachi music, Mexican food, poetry and a special request to promote fairness and equality for all.
Vera Martinez, who also is the college's first Latina to head the school, told professors, students and community leaders during her reception that she is committed to working with everyone to "demystify the so-called barriers that exist between cultures."
"I want people to get to know each other to start addressing and solving" problems that may arise regarding differences between races, genders and cultures, she said.
Herbert Alamo, co-chairman of the campus MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan), a Chicano advocacy group that sponsored the welcoming reception, said he was impressed with what he heard.
"We want to develop a strong relationship with (Martinez) so we can resolve the problems of our community that we will face in the future," he said.
Margie de la Torre Aguirre, a community activist and songwriter who attended the reception, said she believes Martinez is going to be "a people's president."
"She's working and opening her arms, not only to the (Latino) community but to everyone," she said.
Student Javier A. Cortez recited a poem in which he emphasized support for Martinez and urged her to listen to student concerns.
Professor and counselor Enrique (Kiki) Zuniga said the faculty "is very happy to have someone like (Martinez) here. We're hoping for some changes because if we're going to live together here in Southern California, we need to understand each other."