Community Column: Celebrating our students’ achievements

May 15, 2019

Dr. Robert Garza

Whether students are the first in their family to attend college or looking to continue their education, Palo Alto College has always been a place where our community and students can achieve their dreams.

On May 20, friends and family will come together for Palo Alto College's 32nd annual commencement ceremony at Freeman Coliseum to celebrate the achievements of more than 1,300 students who have earned an Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Arts, Associate of Arts in Teaching, Associate of Science, and certificates of completion in the 2018-2019 academic year.

Our record number of graduates planning to cross the stage during the annual ceremony will hear from two distinguished former students who will be recognized as 2019 Outstanding Former Students. State Rep. Phil Cortez, Texas District 117, and María D. García, vice president for community engagement at CPS Energy, will be recognized for exhibiting professional achievement, community service, and support of education.

Delivering the keynote address will be Rosie Castro, who retired from Palo Alto College in 2013 after serving as the college's director of the Center for Academic Transitions and interim dean of student success. Well-known as the mother of former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, she will also receive an honorary degree from the Alamo Colleges District. The honor is approved by the Alamo Colleges District board of trustees and awarded based on achievements that exemplify the mission and vision of the Alamo Colleges District.

At this year's commencement ceremony, we will also celebrate over 160 students who will be graduating with their associate degree before receiving their high school diploma as part of our Early College High School partnerships. These graduates are students who had enrolled at one of our five early college high school partners — Frank L. Madla Early College High School, South San Antonio Early College Academy, Southside Early College High School, S.T.E.M. Early College High School, and Zacharias Early College Leadership Academy — as a collaborative strategy in our community to provide access to higher education to students in our service area.

Along with our college graduates, we also celebrate the achievements of our Adult Learning Academy students who have completed their high school equivalency preparation and testing (commonly known as GED) and who are now prepared to take the next steps in their lives.

Our students' achievements are the reason we continue to strive for excellence. In April, Palo Alto College was named as a Rising Star award winner of the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America's community colleges. The recognition is a testament to the hard work, innovative ideas, and collaboration among our faculty, staff, and students to stay true to one of our shared values across the Alamo Colleges District — Students First.

As a pillar in south San Antonio for over three decades, Palo Alto College's collective focus is to ensure our community is prepared to build a strong foundation. Whether students are transferring to a college or university, or are entering the workforce to begin a career, our students continue to achieve greatness, and we are honored to be a part of their journey. Congratulations to the class of 2019!

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