Tag Archives: Evergreen

This Bay is on Fire

Local families have been checking the news daily for evacuation orders since fires broke out in Northern California over two weeks ago, on August 15th. With over 1.4 million acres burned in two weeks, fire containment was barely in the 10% range for the first few days, with Evacuation Orders and Warnings given to many Bay Area counties.  

Krishna Parthasarathy drove to Fairfield to check his in-law’s home, as they were out of town. “There were cops all around,” he said. “We had to say we had to evacuate the cat. This is not the first time this has happened.” 

Mr. Parthasarathy tried to think about what his in-laws would want him to take. He cleared out the puja room. Every single thing, including the mandap, hand-stitched Bhagavad Gita paintings, and photos of the acharyas.

Face masks and sanitation supplies were the top two items on evacuation packing lists found online. With California reaching­ over 700,000 COVID cases this was a stark reminder that families concerned about the survival of their homes must also take precautions with their physical health. 

Padma Srinivasan of Fremont could not see down the street from her home, which was in an evacuation warning zone. “What happened was one day, it got so bad. The road going from our house is a little narrow. So, we left,” said Ms.  Srinivasan. “I took some essential things. Some things that are sentimental and some things that are valuable.”

After the fires started, the Air Quality Index for many districts went past 170, well into the Unhealthy range. Yaamini Rao, who lives up the Peninsula, was woken up by the lighting that first Sunday. Since then she has been staying indoors. “You can see the haze all over. It smells like an endless campfire,” said Ms. Rao.

CAL FIRE lifted the Evacuation Orders and Warnings for Alameda and  San Joaquin counties as of August 31st regarding the SCU Lightning Complex fires, which is at 60% containmentSanta Clara County continues to have warnings in place but many are in the process of being lifted.  Santa Cruz County has begun Phase 4 repopulation where fire containment is at 39%. The LNU Lightning Complex fires are at 66% containment. “The firemen are doing a fantastic job,” said Ms. Srinivasan. “We owe a lot to them.” 

This experience has prompted many to reflect on what is valuable and important and essential. “We have so many possessions and they can become a burden. We don’t need that much to live, you know?,” said Ms. Srinivasan. “When we go to Yama, Yama does not let us bring a suitcase. We go empty-handed,” said Mr. Parthasarathy.

Here are some resources to check on the fires if you’re in an affected region: CAL FIRE, CalTopo (California Topographical Maps), WildFire Information, Cal Fire SCU Twitter, Cal Fire CZU Twitter, Cal Fire LNU Twitter, Air Quality, Evacuation List.

Check out the previous India Currents’ article on disaster preparedness!

Sree Sripathy is a photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Community Colleges: A Well-Kept Secret

Community colleges are the often-overlooked institutions of learning, that are hidden gems in one’s backyard.

In India, the system of community colleges is seen as an alternative system of education that can be used to acquire trade skills, but not as a conduit to institutions of higher learning.  In the United States, on the other hand, community colleges are seen as junior colleges giving a leg up to those that need one, in climbing into the four-year college system. If the student so desires, he or she could earn college credits at the local community college and then transfer to a four-year educational institution in the United States. By completing two years worth of credits at a community college the student then needs to spend only two years at a University school like UCLA to earn a Bachelors degree. 

The aim of both the Indian and American systems, however, is to empower the disadvantaged and the underprivileged through appropriate skills-development, leading to gainful employment.  

The booming popularity of community colleges could also be attributed to President Obama, who was hailed as the “Community College President”, for funding and supporting these educational institutions.  During his campaign, Obama spoke regularly of the importance of community colleges in keeping America economically and educationally competitive in the 21st century.

The Evergreen Valley College (E.V.C.), located on a sprawling 175 acres in the eastern foothills of San Jose, California, is just such an institution that prepares students to transfer to four-year college systems, such as those of the Universities of California and California State Universities.  It has transfer agreements with all 23 California State Universities, 6 of the Universities of California, and some private universities. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges – a national accrediting body – the E.V.C. is the largest feeder community college to the San Jose State University.

Community colleges are especially attractive as stepping-stones to international students who need to improve key academic skills, including language skills, before obtaining admission to a Bachelor’s level program.  The credits earned at the community college help complete university education in a time- and cost-effective manner.

The Evergreen Valley College has a large number of international students from India.  Elizabeth Tyrrell, Director of the International Student Program, travels to India and meets high school students in order to explain the American community college system:  

“We have the 2 + 2 system.  At the end, students receive their Bachelor’s Degree from the 4-year institution (from which they graduate).  Almost all of E.V.C.’s international students transfer to accredited 4-year institutions.  94% of E.V.C.’s transfer-ready students do, in fact, transfer.  Students can apply and transfer beyond California and go to any university or college in the U.S.”

Evergreen Valley College is S.E.V.I.S. certified and approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to issue the I-20 Form, which is required to apply for a visa to study in the U.S.

Students from India do not need to take the S.A.T. or the T.O.E.F.L. exam, as long as their high school transcript is in English, and they come from an English medium high school.

The application process is more relaxed as well.  Students may apply for admission till as late as June 30, 2018 for the Fall semester that begins on 4 September, 2018, or apply between October 15 2018 and December 1, 2018, for the Winter session that starts on 28 January, 2019.

There is no question that the savings are significant when it comes to tuition. While the annual tuition at a Universityof California would cost approximately $41,000, a student would only pay $6748 at the Evergreen Valley College – a savings of nearly $35,000.  However, taking into account the cost of living – housing, transport, fun-money, books and supplies – students would be well-advised to budget for $21,500 for the year, per E.V.C.

In addition to the compelling financial savings, students also step into a learning environment akin to that of a University.  While at the beginning of each semester, students are responsible for signing up for classes, maintaining attendance, completing course work and submitting assignments, they have the added advantage of having Counselors on hand, to guide them in the choice of courses and help them meet the necessary pre-requisites for their Major.  

The average class size in community colleges is typically smaller.  While the student-teacher ratio at E.V.C. is only 28 – 45 students to 1 teacher, the class size at a U.C. can sometimes run to over 300 students.  Additionally, students in community colleges have Professors teaching the course themselves, while in large universities, the course may be taught by a Teaching Assistant.

The 2015 enrollment statistics published by the American Association of Community Colleges, reveal that 46%, of all the U.S. undergraduates, are community college students.  Of the 12 million students who go to community college in the U.S. every year, 2.1 million choose California community colleges.

Community colleges cater to the needs of the local job market and have professors who work closely with the students to groom them not only for the needs of the local area, but also equip them with skills that are transferrable beyond.  With the voracious appetite for new talent and the ever-changing skills needed in the Silicon Valley, community colleges provide an alluring and viable solution.

Says Michael Riordan, a tax accountant and teacher at a local Bay Area community college, of the merits of community colleges “This is a win-win situation.  Save your money for (the students’) Masters.”

For queries please contact: Elizabeth Tyrrell, Evergreen Valley College, 3095 Yerba Buena Road, San Jose, CA 95135 E-mail: International@evc.edu Phone: +1 (408) 270-6453


Ritu Marwah is the Features Editor at India Currents and is an avid student of educational systems.




Measure C – A City’s Shield to Protect its Lands: Will the Voters Let it Down?

Last week, San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo and his team spoke to the ethnic media about Measure C that is on the ballot for San Jose voters on June 5, 2018. They were flanked by a chain of people holding placards reading “Yes for C” and “No for B”. Gently, the mayor explained in English—followed by his fellow council members in Spanish and Vietnamese—why Measure B is for “Builders” and C for “Community,” and why it was imperative to defeat the former and pass the latter. In other words, NO on Measure B and YES on Measure C.

But first what are these measures that reportedly have both the local Democrats and Republicans united and a host of organizations, including environmental and veterans groups, joining hands with the city council, while pitting them against “billionaire” developers.

Measure B, or the Evergreen Senior Housing Initiative is an attempt to open up currently undeveloped “employment” land to senior housing projects, launched by real estate developers Carl Berg and Chop Keenan. Measure C is a complimentary measure proposed by Mayor Sam Liccardo and approved by the city council to counter Measure B and restrict residential development in those areas.

The area in contention is 200 acres of undeveloped land in the Evergreen hills at the city’s eastern edge.

Opponents of Measure B claim that almost everything is wrong and disingenuous about the seemingly benevolent project aimed to help senior citizens, starting with its deceptive name. On paper, it proposes the development of 910 residential units in the Evergreen Campus Industrial Area off of Aborn road. Yet, there is more to it than meets the eye. It casts a much wider net by placing a senior housing overlay over all underutilized employment lands in San Jose. In simple terms, it means that all the land currently reserved for job creation can be used for housing development.

Additionally, it exempts the developers from paying standard fees for the impact of increased vehicular traffic. By bringing in the proposal as a citizens’ initiative, the builders are bypassing the city’s environmental, affordable housing, traffic impact and services fee regulations that they would need to adhere to otherwise.

Measure C, aims to counter that and enforces these regulations on the land development projects proposed in the outlying areas.

But isn’t the city facing a housing crisis, and the proposed housing development for seniors and veterans would actually be a good thing? That is another myth that the mayor and the Council aim to bust. The proposed development does little to address affordable housing, or to ensure that even a single veteran would stay in the units. In fact it reduces the requirement of affordable units for families earning less than $100,000 a year to six percent from the currently required twenty percent.

The Council agrees that part of the land would eventually be developed in some form. But the development ought to be according to the city’s plan, prepared with community leaders and keeping the community’s needs in mind. Unfortunately for the developers, building another conclave of luxury houses in the foothills is not part of that. It will stretch already strained city resources, taking them away from the existing areas to an outlying new development, create traffic gridlocks and sprawl, and destroy the environment of San Jose’s Coyote valley.

Megan Medeiros, the Executive Director of the Committee for Green Foothills, was one of the placard-holding activists during the briefing. She and her team have been actively fighting and campaigning for Measure C, hosting precinct walks to go door-to-door, and urging likely voters to vote “No” to urban sprawl and wildlife habitat destruction. “The builders literally conned the unsuspecting citizens in malls and public places to get the signatures needed to put the Measure on the ballot, thus gaining a backdoor entry bypassing the city regulations” said Medeiros, a claim that Liccardo referred to in his speech,  “the developers should be made to play by the rules everybody else has to follow.”

In the end, it is up to voters to make an informed decision when voting on such measures. It is to be seen whether citizens will be taken in by the developers’ campaign against Measure C, or if they will read the “fine print” and vote against Measure B. At stake, as Mayor Liccardo puts it, is the future of our children and successive generations.

With less than two weeks to go for the June Primary and builder advertising in full swing, it appears to be an uphill battle for the city.

Jyoti Khera is a freelance writer based in San Jose. She writes on politics, food, and films.