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The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Beloved SBCC student Jorge Benitez mourned and remembered for poetry

Courtesy of Leslie Marin Juarez
Jorge Uriel Benitez enjoys the sunshine on April 21 on SBCC’s Great Meadow in Santa Barbara, Calif. Benitez passed away on Oct. 11.

Jorge Uriel Benitez, City College student, poet, and friend, died on Oct. 11 due to medical complications, one day after his 22nd birthday. 

Benitez left behind copious amounts of poetry, guidance, and inspiration to those around him in his community.

Benitez was diagnosed with duchenne muscular dystrophy, a gene mutation where one’s muscles slowly degenerate and are not able to repair themselves. However, according to his teachers, classmates and friends at City College, muscular dystrophy did not stop Benitez from being an active part of the Dream Center, the classroom, and an inspiration to everyone around him. 

Poetry and meditation were deeply rooted throughoutBenitez’s life. While attending Santa Barbara High School, the student practiced and applied his writing, motivational speaking, and mediation techniques, all of which he later pursued at City College after graduating high school in 2020. 

Melissa Menendez, Raíces coordinator and English professor, emphasized that Benitez was a vital part of the classroom community. 

“He led our class in several meditation sessions,” Menendez said. “He always openly shared with the class about his condition and life experiences and his openness was extremely impactful.” 

As well as being an essential part in the classroom,  Benitez was regularly in the Dream Center, which is a part of the Center for Equity & Social Justice at City College. Whether it was cracking jokes, sharing snacks, or just being present in his community, the people around him could feel his warmth and care. 

Among many things, what always stood out to me about Jorge’s involvement with his peers and SBCC staff is regardless of any circumstance or challenge he was faced with…during my time of knowing Jorge I never once heard him complain about anything but rather come to me and say, ‘I have this problem, how can I fix it,’” said Leslie Marin Juarez, student program advisor at the Dream Center.

One thing that particularly stood out to Benitez’s community was his love for poetry. He curated poems, both in English and Spanish, about anything and everything around him. One of his last poems was inspired from the butterfly on the Dream center logo, a symbol for undocumented students representing hope, transformation, and migration, according to Juarez.

“In one of the conversations I had with him he shared that although he couldn’t physically move he felt free and empowered.” Juarez said.

Correction: Nov. 27.

A previous version of this article stated that there was a butterfly on the Umoja logo, when there it not, but there is a butterfly on the Dream center logo. This mistake has been fixed and The Channels regrets this error. 

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