Commentary: Long-term community efforts needed to return life to normal

Coastline College employees give tours of the new Student Services Center building.
Coastline College employees give tours of the new Student Services Center building during the grand opening on Nov. 10 in Fountain Valley.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

California has been in an official state of emergency until around February 2023. Here in Beijing, there have been total lockdowns, confining residents to their apartments. Suddenly, up to half of China has been infected with a mild form of airborne coronavirus, which the entire world may receive soon.

We all realize COVID-19 is here to stay. Society must adhere to strict precautions until scientists create more effective vaccines, treatments and maybe even a cure. As a manufacturing country, China recognizes this and plans to keep producing masks, protective equipment, hand sanitizer, essential living goods like toilet paper and anything else necessary.

Beyond acknowledging this long-term reality, what can we do to ensure that our community continues to develop and be a wonderful place to live?

I praise local community colleges as a hub for immediate relief and long-term development trajectory.

There are referral services for local housing at shelters for those without housing. A food pantry provides groceries and essential living supplies, such as hygiene and toiletries. For transportation, there are bus vouchers. For books and computers, there are loaning programs without requiring any deposit. There are essential resources and trained personnel, both online and in-person, to give physical health and psychological care. Recently, there has even been cash relief of up to $1,500 for those who demonstrate financial hardship.

Longer-term, we need to look for ways to relentlessly develop our skill sets, using education as the foundational tool. Yes, healthcare services can help get any human back to standard functionality. But what then? Even if someone fully recovers, do they want to return to scrounging for minimum-wage work with little chance of being promoted?

Economists see student loan debt as a major factor in the economy, including the potential for another recession, writes Daily Pilot columnist Patrice Apodaca.

The first step toward success is learning the local language, in this case: English. Orange Coast College, Coastline Community College and Golden West College have some of the country’s best-trained English as a second language teachers. Federal and state funding gives these teachers essential quality control and training in ways that foundational English programs at the University of California and even expensive private universities cannot. Methods such as Siegfried Engelmann’s Direct Instruction model are used because they are proven repeatedly with government research rather than a whim to customer demand.

Learning basic skills, such as basic writing, math and computer applications, is also required. Local community colleges train those skills. After that, getting a high school equivalent such as the GED, TASC or HiSet allows someone to demonstrate sufficient mastery of language arts, math, science and social studies to move on to college courses.

Our local community colleges have over one hundred typical concentrations (academic majors). Someone can decide if they want a certification to show a primary measure of knowledge and skills or have an associate of arts degree for transfer. and show how this transfer system allows a seamless transition into a bachelor’s program in nearly every public or private school.

It is possible to get relief from immediate programs, enroll in academic learning and use the Career Advantage Program. Being an educational researcher and counselor with global experience, I assure any reader that these programs are well-funded, have excellent staff and genuinely care about helping others. Even those with intellectual disabilities, past academic trouble, social problems or former incarcerations have been surprised at how understanding, supportive and helpful many of the community college staff are.

Having worked in the U.S. and six countries abroad, I see true happiness comes from finding a good fit for a job. Then, someone becomes relevant, needed and can help others. Soon enough, that employed person pays taxes and helps fund the next generation of social programs, paying it forward to others.

Joseph Klunder is a native of Newport Beach and has been an international school teacher and counselor worldwide. He currently resides in Beijing and welcomes anyone to contact him for mentorship.

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