Empowerment Center focuses on helping students reach their goals

November 30, 2021

After earning her GED through the Empowerment Center at San Antonio College, Caprice Diaz felt unstoppable. But once enrolled in college-level courses, there were times she wondered if she would make it.

“I went through multiple challenging times where I thought, ‘I can’t do it, it’s too much,’” Diaz said.

Caprice Diaz web.jpgFortunately, the support she received from the Empowerment Center while earning her GED continued when she became a college student. With help facing obstacles both in and out of the classroom, Diaz not only earned her associate degree in business management, but she is now working toward her bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M – San Antonio while working for SAC’s risk management department.

The center helps non-traditional students stay in school and reach their academic goals in several ways.

First, certified advisors work one-on-one with each student. Advisors not only guide students through their academics, they also get an understanding of each student’s life outside of school to help them navigate any challenges they face to reaching their academic goals. Advisors assist students with financial constraints, family obligations, transportation issues and other barriers.

Diaz, a first-generation college student and mother of four, spent several years working for an oil company. Her supervisor told her she would not advance without a college education, which motivated her to earn her GED and pursue her degree.

The Empowerment Center provided the tools to succeed, including school supplies, career testing to identify strengths, and workshops to develop skills. When she struggled with her math and science classes, center staff reassured her that she could do it and connected her with tutoring. They also directed Diaz to scholarship opportunities, which helped her cover the costs of her education.

“We don’t give up on students unless they give up on themselves,” said Melissa Flores-Valencia, senior coordinator at the Empowerment Center.

The Empowerment Center also helps non-traditional students stay the course by developing their leadership skills through special programs. Diaz joined the center’s Adelante Leadership Academy, a series of workshops for female students that provides inspirational speakers, networking and skill development.

One of the center’s most important roles is building confidence in non-traditional students. Some speak English as a second language. Some come from low-income households, are undocumented, are exiting the foster care system or escaping from a domestic violence situation. Whatever difficulties students face, the EC offers support and connects them to the resources they need to continue their studies.

“It’s so important for students to feel connected, that they’re not alone, and to hear from other students who are in their same situation or who have moved beyond that situation,” Flores-Valencia said.

When students succeed, the Empowerment Center team celebrates with them.

“Being their cheerleader is important,” Flores-Valencia said. “We do a lot of celebrations with them. Sometimes they don’t always have that with their family, but recognizing their accomplishments is important.”

The support that Diaz received led her to achievements she never thought possible, both as a student at SAC and after graduating with her associate degree in business administration.

“None of us can succeed alone,” Diaz said. “I never thought I would be where I am today, and it’s because of the Empowerment Center.”