Community Column: Supporting disabled students

March 19, 2019

Dr. Robert Garza

At Palo Alto College, the success of our students can influence the economic growth of our beloved city, and our first-rate faculty and staff are committed to educating all students who choose to attend our institution, including individuals with special needs.

Two years ago, Palo Alto College launched Project Access, a special program for students from San Antonio and surrounding communities with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. Over three semesters, students in Project Access take collegelevel courses in a small group setting to earn a General Office Level 1 Certificate and gain necessary technical skills and soft skills for gainful employment.

As the first program of its kind in San Antonio, the courses the students take are stackable, meaning students can use their college credits to continue their education toward an Associate of Applied Science in Administrative Assistant. The program now serves more than 40 students. Over 20 students have successfully completed their first certificate, and many are pursuing additional certificates.

In 2018, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board named Project Access as one of five state-wide finalists for the 2018 Texas Higher Education Star Award, which recognizes exceptional contributions toward meeting the board's education plan goals.

Students with disabilities can work, lead productive lives, and achieve their dreams — just like any other student. Creating a program to support these traditionally underserved students is the starting point to provide a path to success. With the commitment to providing educational access to all, the opportunities for our students are endless.

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