Community Column: Learning through community service

March 5, 2019

Dr. Robert Garza

Acts of service have always been at the forefront of my family's values. Both of my grandfathers and my father served our country through their years of military service, and my wife and I have served as educators to help empower students in our community.

At Palo Alto College, we continually provide opportunities for our students to understand how service creates direct connections to one another. Through our S.H.A.R.E. Center, we offer service learning projects throughout the year to allow students to feel invested in the community in which they live, work, and play.

Two years ago, we expanded our service learning opportunities by launching our first Alternative Spring Break program in New Orleans with a group of nine students who wanted to experience, discuss, and understand social issues in a significant way.

This year, students from Palo Alto College will return to New Orleans for the third consecutive year to help with ongoing recovery efforts from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina through activities such as tree planting, urban farming, community gardening, and more.

A second group of students will travel to central Los Angeles to support the city's homeless and limited-income population by working alongside partners like Midnight Mission and AIDS Project LA to serve meals, stock food pantries, and restore habitats for healthier living.

Allowing our students to actively contribute to these diverse environments enables them to immediately see the positive impact each one of us can make in our global community. While the challenges within our own respective communities might be different, the act of community service can be a life-changing opportunity that can positively influence the trajectory of someone else's life.

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