Calexico natives and Imperial Valley College freshmen Oscar Robles and Marco Alcaraz listened intently as U.S. Border Patrol Agent John Mendoza explained how each could earn a starting salary of nearly $42,000 a year for one of the few federal agencies willing to hire 18-year-olds.
Pointing to a salary
grid, Mendoza, a recruitment coordinator for the Border Patrol, told the teens
that with one full year of employment experience they could qualify to join the
thousands of men and women who police the nation’s borders.
Border Patrol and its overseer
agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, appeared to be among the most
popular booths at IVC’s annual Career Fair and College/University Day event. It
was held Sept. 26 at the campus’ DePaoli Sports Complex east of Imperial.
120 exhibitor booths for 1,000 Students
With about 1,000 students
expected to attend the three-hour event, some 700 high school students and 300
IVC students made their way among 120 exhibitor booths. They were divided into
one-third IVC departments, one-third colleges and universities to which IVC students
could transfer, and one-third local employers, said organizer Patricia Robles.
“We try to make that link between IVC programs, transfer universities and careers,” said Robles, the college’s economic and workforce development coordinator.
The college has held the Career
Fair for about 18 years, but only began to combine it with its College/University
Day about a dozen years ago, Robles explained.
Although Robles said
attendance was down a bit this year due to a scheduling conflict with the
Imperial County Office of Education’s Higher Education Week events at local high
schools, IVC President/Superintendent Martha Garcia said she was pleased to see
so much participation.
“It is definitely a success. It’s exciting to see the interest of students … we want to thank the community for its support,” Garcia said. “There is tremendous local support reflected with everyone here for the community college.”
A twofold mission
The event perfectly
captured the college’s twofold mission of preparing students to transfer to
four-year colleges and universities or for the workforce, said Garcia, who is
in her second year leading IVC.
Even aside from the
Border Patrol booth, other law enforcement-related employers attracted drew
numerous students, including the county Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department.
Robles and Alcaraz, both
18, were among at least half a dozen students who chatted with Border Patrol
officials and picked up materials to fill out online job applications.
“For all my life, I’ve wanted to be in the Border Patrol,” Robles said, “to be out in the cars, looking for people who jump the fence.”
Alcaraz was a bit more
diplomatic in his desire to don the agency’s signature olive- green uniform.
“Since the U.S. has helped me with my education, I want to serve them, serve my country,” he said.
Law enforcement agencies represent
Although the Border
Patrol staffs outposts along the Canadian border and at ports all along the
western and eastern seaboards, “The majority of our hiring is on the southwest
border with Mexico, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, California,” Mendoza said.
County probation officer
Aryana Singh said she had spoken to many curious high school students.
“We’re a pretty diverse agency. We have a lot of things we do,” Singh said, explaining the agency oversees probation for both adults and juveniles, is involved in investigative work and has “people on the street teams working with other (law enforcement) agencies.”
Nursing schools and
careers in the medical field were popular with students as well.
Danielle Del Bono and
Sophie Daniel, both seniors at Borrego Springs High School, were visiting the
California State University, San Bernardino, booth and said they have specific
careers in mind.
“I want to find a really good school with a really good nursing program,” said Danielle, 16, who said she had been told CSU San Bernardino had a “pretty good program.”
Sophie, 17, was looking
for a strong psychology program but also a school that is a bit more relaxed
with some of its admission standards.
“San Bernardino wants a 3.5 GPA or higher, but they would go down to 2.9,” she said. “I struggled in my junior year, but we’re pulling through.”
The Borrego Springs
students were speaking with Brenda Machuca, CSU San Bernardino’s admissions
counselor for its relatively new Palm Desert campus.
“We also have one of the top programs in the nation for cybersecurity,” Machuca said.
Local Medical Centers make an impression
Kristina Dagdag, 21, of
Imperial, a first-year nursing student at IVC, said she was checking out both
the El Centro Regional Medical Center and Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District
booths. She said she was hoping to learn which employer would be open to her
working while still earning her registered-nursing degree.
Dagdag, who was standing by the ECRMC booth, said Pioneers was the frontrunner so far: “I think I’m being biased, though. My mom works there.”
Still, ECRMC officials were making a strong case. Angelica Bernal, community and staff development specialist with the El Centro hospital’s education department, was selling the hospital’s nurse residency program.
Bernal said the program
offers hands-on training and paid internships in which residents can rotate
through the hospital’s different departments to get experience and find out
what best fits them.
“We like to grow our own nurses,” Bernal explained. “It’s important for us to help retain our young nurses so they’re giving back to the community that helped grow them.”
El Centro resident
Elizabeth Beltran, a 49-year-old mother of three, said she has been attending
community college off and on for the last five years, and is getting ready to
transfer to San Diego State University to major in psychology. She said she was
there to speak with SDSU officials, but also there as an assignment for her
“It’s all a little nerve-wracking at my age,” Beltran said. “It’s not easy being a housewife and a mother of three. But it’s great seeing all of these people here. I’m here interviewing people, too, due to my English class, so I can get a better view of my future college journey.”