Senator Stern spends day engaging with community, learning new skills

State Senator Henry Stern, right, talks with College of the Canyons' chair of welding technology Tim Baber, left, about the skills students learn in the program during a tour of the campus on Friday, June 24, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Welding, nursing and media expertise can all be added to Senator Henry Stern’s résumé after his visit to Santa Clarita on Friday.

Stern (D-Canoga Park) spent his first full day in Santa Clarita learning about business, education and his constituents, engaging in the skills many of the people in his district are currently working toward.

During an hour-long tour of College of the Canyons, Stern was given insight into some of the school’s most popular programs.

Eric Harnish, vice president of public information, advocacy and external relations at College of the Canyons, said both the college and the senator’s office were mutually interested in having Stern visit.

State Senator Henry Stern, right, practices welding on a virtual machine with the help of College of the Canyons’ chair of welding technology Tim Baber during a tour of the campus on Friday, June 23, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

“He wanted to come learn what we’re doing and we absolutely wanted to share some exciting things that are going on here,” Harnish said.

The college often invites newly-elected officials to visit, according to Harnish.

“We hope that he sees the quality of education that is offered here and the opportunities that we’re creating for the community,” Harnish said.

After rolling up his sleeves and putting on a large mask, Stern learned about modern technologies in the welding industry by using the tools firsthand.

“This is the future of our jobs climate,” Stern said. “A job is a job, but this is a special kind of job.”

Tim Baber, department chair in welding technology, explained to the senator that much of the training students get in his classes lends itself to welding careers for the aerospace and medical industries.

“The senator was able to see the return on investment of funding,” Baber told The Signal.

The freshman senator then headed over to the nursing department to participate in an emergency room simulation, putting on a stethoscope and checking a dummy’s breathing patterns alongside a nursing student.

“There is an inherent goodness in being a registered nurse,” Stern said to a nursing student.

Brock Selig, a former professional advertiser and the student who led Stern through the exercise, showed the senator that someone can go back to school at any age to start a new career.

Nursing Program Coordinator Mary Corbett emphasized that nurses are to treat all of their patients fairly and equally, which did not go unnoticed by Stern, who mentioned it to her afterward.

State Senator Henry Stern listens to the breathing of a mannequin during a nursing school demonstration at College of the Canyons on Friday, June 23, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Stern finished his tour in the media, entertainment and arts department, discussing the future of the industry with faculty and students.

“The art of storytelling never changes,” Stern said about the timelessness of the industry. “This is the future of California’s economy.”

Relating his family life as the son of actor, director and writer Daniel Stern, the senator discussed the human element of media and the importance of building networks with the college’s media staff.

“More than telling students how to do something, we show them,” lab technician Ron Entrekin said.

At multiple points, staff members mentioned the need for Career and Technical Education funds from the state, which Stern said had been something he pushed for in the California budget this year.

Following the tour, Stern and his staff dined with COC Board of Trustees members, dignitaries and civic engagement students at the iCUE Café on campus.

Prior to the tour and lunch, Stern had a closed round table meeting to discuss the state of business in the valley, including conversations about future opportunities and current difficulties employers and local businesses face.

To close the day, Stern was invited to speak at Politics on Tap, a quarterly mixer Junior Chamber International Santa Clarita hosts to engage with legislators and local officials.

The group, comprised of civically-engaged 21 to 40-year-olds, is a nonpartisan organization that aims to help members improve themselves and the world around them.

According to Nicole Vartanian, vice president of external and government affairs for JCI, group members were excited to welcome Stern, who is a millennial himself.

“We consider him one of us,” Vartanian said. “Having the senator attend an event like this, put on by an organization that empowers people to make changes in their community…gives our young leaders the tools they need to make an impact.”

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