Honors Academy student heading to Temple University
July 25, 2023
Fourteen years ago, Viviane Altuzar was a Mexican high school dropout. Now, she's heading to Temple University following her graduation from San Antonio College and being part of the Honors Academy program.
Altuzar plans to earn bachelor's degrees in criminal justice and history at Temple in Pennsylvania. And she already has her sights set on becoming a civil rights lawyer, where she hopes to help underrepresented people.
"I was born and raised in a very different country, where the majority of people are poor," Altuzar said. "Having all of these opportunities here in the United States, like being able to go to college and having the opportunity to have this quality education, gave me this feeling of wanting to give back."
Professor Laurie Lopez Coleman, the director of the Honors Academy at SAC, called the 31-year-old Altuzar "a go-getter" whose life experiences have given her "a very informed outlook on the world."
"Viviane's not afraid to ask, 'What is that?' and 'Who is that?' and find out and make sure that she is getting the most out of what is here, whether it's San Antonio College, or the city of San Antonio, the state, or the country," Coleman said. "She genuinely wants a full experience and she's not afraid to put herself in places that are unfamiliar or uncharted.
"She's always hungry for those kinds of things."
Altuzar's path hasn't always been a straight one. The youngest of four children, she worked for a couple of years in Mexico before moving to Texas about 10 years ago to help a sister and her nieces. Over time, Altuzar learned English and earned her GED.
Three years ago, shortly after getting her green card, Altuzar took the next step in her journey by enrolling at SAC. She majored in sociology and engineering.
"My dad raised me with the idea of going to college and 'don't get stuck with a minimum wage job,'" recalled Altuzar, whose father works as a hospital administrator in Mexico. "It's not that bad to work for that (minimum wage), but he raised me with that ambition of being a little bit more."
Once at SAC, Altuzar also got a job doing part time clerical work in the office at the Honors Academy. The academy gives students a deeper understanding of subject matter in SAC's core requirements through additional class assignments. It also provides them with a place where they can drop into study and connect with classmates and teachers.
After her first semester at SAC, Altuzar applied for admission and was accepted as an Honors Academy student. Altuzar said the academy's academic and personal challenges and benefits motivated her to join the program.
"We all have very different backgrounds and very different histories and stories," she said. "I think that's what makes us so special at SAC. That we are like a small family."
Enrollment at SAC is about 18,000 students. The Honors Academy averages about 275. Students must maintain a 3.25 GPA or higher and complete a final Capstone project in their fourth semester.
Coleman said Altuzar served as a role model and mentor for her classmates, frequently intervening with a soft heart and a sympathetic ear whenever someone had personal problems or mental health issues they needed to discuss. All Honors Academy students are required to submit a "mission statement" as part of the program.
Coleman recalled that Altuzar wrote "my mission is to pursue a career based on kindness, integrity, and justice."
"I was just blown away by that," Coleman said. "She's really a special person in that way.
"She has that servant-heart. She wants to serve her community."