A Go-Getter: Automotive Technology Alumnus Graduated Twice in Two Years

May 24, 2018

Public Information Officer


Scores of St. Philip’s College alumni have walked the graduation stage to accept degrees and credentials in consecutive years as students at the 120-year-old college.

No history to be made there if you are a current St. Philips’s College student or a new alumnus, one might think.

Except for one of several St. Philip’s College alumni who received their college degrees May 11, a few days before they receive their high school diplomas in June, and after receiving one of their college credentials a full year before finishing both college and high school.

And that alumnus intends to ship off with the U.S. Army this summer, degrees and certificates of completion earned in 2017 and 2018 likely stored somewhere on his phone.

Early college high school student and college auto technology alumnus Stephen Cruz became one of the members of the first (May 11, 2018) graduating class of the St. Philip's College Early College High School with San Antonio Independent School District, located at 1801 Martin Luther King Drive in the City's Denver Heights neighborhood.

But he’s kept what happened to him when he received one of his college credentials earned in May of 2017 mostly to himself.

And a short post-graduation ceremony conversation in 2017 filled with reminiscences by Cruz offered both parents and prospective students a look into the thoughts of a modern day student.

"I was really scared. It was a scary thought to be on an actual college campus being able to get your associate or certificate. Fast forward, it became reality," Cruz said a few days after receiving his brake and front end specialist certificate of completion while attending a graduation ceremony held by the college back in May of 2017.

"The size of graduation was overwhelming. It was my first. It was weird to graduate college before you graduate high school. It’s not something you do on a daily basis," said Cruz. "The first cohort of a program this spectacular has its own set of nerves. Coming in as a freshman, the first semester was not that difficult. The second semester---with college classes---was kind of a big difference. It was all-day on Friday. Being in a college class was something not even normal college students feel---you are in the college lab half a day and you are in a college lecture room half day. That’s a big gap. The next semester we were college students. You are so much younger and more inexperienced, but you have to be on the same level as them to a certain extent. You have the majority but not all of their freedoms. You know you are different because there are guidelines you have to follow that they don’t," Cruz said.

"The way it’s set up now, there are three more graduations, including high school," Cruz shared last year. "There will be two certifications earned of the four possible tied together, my associate of applied science, and then my high school, last time I checked," said Cruz, a 2014 alumnus of Rhodes Middle School.

"Some asked me simple questions when they first met me. Like, what are you studying? How far are you? How many hours do you get? How’d did you get into this?” Cruz shared.

“What does it all mean, the basic questions you come to hear from people you barely know? It’s not too complicated. but it is repetitive," said Cruz.

"When we first came for the orientation to college, there were three options, liberal arts, and associate of science in cybersecurity and auto technology," Cruz recalled. "They took us to the classrooms, we eventually got more choices and pathways, but just walking into the lab, the smell and feel of it... this is something I want to do is what I said to myself. I was intrigued about cars, keeping them running. I was tempted to go into cybersecurity, but it was a complete change of mind to commit to automotive, with multiple chances to change that day through registration. I never changed my answer. Remembering that experience, it was so lifelike and real, that once in a lifetime feeling. The first day of class was hectic with safety glasses and books. As soon as we sat down with the professor, I knew it was completely different from a high school class, not abiding by the high school rules. There was more freedom, in a lab completely bigger than any regular classroom. The way a professor talks to you is more like a peer and an equal instead of a teacher-to-student. Ever since that first class, I have never regretted being an automotive student," said Cruz.

"The college held an auto car show during the CultureFest the first year, and the professor who ran it was my teacher in my second semester in a college class," Cruz further recalled. "We volunteered to be part of it, a different experience, where we immediately went into a mind-blowing experience about what we could do. CultureFest was an amazing thing to volunteer for," Cruz said.

"I know one thing I want to do is to transfer to a university for a business degree to apply what I know, and to open up my own shop while also knowing how to fix cars too. Know both ends, being a businessperson and a technical worker, that's what I want to do,” Cruz said of his entrepreneurial objectives.

"I would love to travel to open more than one shop, it’s always been an interesting thing," said Cruz. "My family has been in the Navy, so traveling’s always in us. I would love to travel out of state, to get a better sense of what it’s like to actually live," said Cruz.

Shaun Smith is a college automotive technology faculty member who has taught Cruz and other SAISD alumni when at the college level when they were his students a few days ago.

“He joined the Army and he leaves this summer with his associate degree tonight,” Smith said May 11. “An amazing student, kind of quiet and reserved, possibly scared at first. He blossomed into a go-getter who wants to do it all. I think he’s going to become a fleet mechanic in the Army. He emerged as a leader of dual credit students in the program. Really stepped it up. Everything we’ve ever done for outreach or team building as a department, that group of students volunteered for, and I think it was because of him. It’s amazing, and I’m sure I might talk to him tonight during the commencement,” said Smith.

Smith displayed the Army brand with the rest of his cap-and-gown regalia during the May 11 graduation ceremony, along with a special cord the college provides to students in service with the armed forces in many capacities.

For details on the St. Philip's College Early College High School with SAISD, contact school principal Dr. Derrick Thomas at 210-486-2406, dthomas@saisd.net.

CAPTION: The Automotive Technology Open House programs at St. Philip’s College are a big attraction to prospective students and current students who begin studying the profession at the college level as early as high school. Members of automotive program’s St. Philip's College Early College High School with San Antonio Independent School District class in attendance at the college’s Spring 2018 commencement ceremony May 11 in Freeman Coliseum included (from left) Raven Gonzales, Benjamin DeLuna, Stephen Cruz and Anthony Bustos. The May 2017 event was Cruz’s second college ceremony. In May of 2017, Cruz walked the stage at the college to accept his brake and front end specialist certificate of completion. While his high school graduation ceremony takes place in June, Cruz also begins service with the Army this summer as well. St. Philip’s College students with armed forces ties such as Cruz are traditionally honored with special regalia during the college’s graduation ceremonies. (SPC image by Julysa Sosa)