Community Column: Summer programs create pathway to college

April 30, 2019

Dr. Robert Garza

The first time I set foot on any college campus was when I was 17 years old. Now, as president of Palo Alto College, I understand the importance of introducing college at a young age.

Palo Alto College has made incredible efforts to expand access to education, including early college high schools and dual credit. We have even more opportunity to continue to build relationships with students before they are in high school to ensure they always know college is an option for them.

The Palo Alto College Kids' Camp is one way to introduce children to the college environment. Our camps are designed to promote leadership and character development for children ages 5 to 12 through physical activity and classroom learning customized by age group. Each week, campers enjoy a variety of themed activities focusing on sports, leadership, and hands-on projects, with a fun field trip every Friday.

Parents can sign up their child for additional mini-camps to supplement their summer education. Mini-camps such as Discover Robotics, Explore Animals, and Soaring with Aviation use age-appropriate activities to explore STEM programs. Parents also can enroll their children in swim lessons, where they can learn life-saving skills from trained swim coaches in our Aquatic Center.

For students ages 12 to 18, we offer a variety of half-day camp options that can be combined into full-day camps. Our STEM Summer Experience, funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is an interactive two-week camp for students to experience the diverse careers in STEM related fields, including biology, engineering and chemistry.

In addition, our partnership with Youth Code Jam and the Texas Workforce Commission will offer Code the Future Camps that are designed to introduce students ages 12 to 18 to computer science and coding. Participants will learn to solve problems using programming language, data science and creativity. This particular camp includes several guest speakers who are founders of technology companies, software developers, engineers, and programmers. They can share their real-world experiences and the opportunities for a wide range of technology careers in our community.

For those who want to focus more on the arts, we offer Puppet Academy, Speech Camp, and Theater Camp, as well as a Sports Camp to cover activities including basketball, soccer, swimming and tennis.

Providing a robust summer camp experience for all ages aligns with our mission of empowering our students and community for leadership and success. Whether students ultimately seek a career in a STEM field or pursue another passion, we'll continue to provide all students with every resource possible so they can be successful throughout their educational journey and be prepared for future endeavors.

This column by Dr. Robert Garza, president of Palo Alto College, was originally published in the San Antonio Express-News' Southside Reporter and