By Stefanie Maldonado
Pulse Staff Reporter
March 19, 2015, will mark the 30-year anniversary of Palo Alto College. The first class consisted of 231 students, compared to 8,376 students today. Palo Alto has been a key factor in the growth of San Antonio.
The college has come a long way from its humble beginnings in a shopping strip center located right outside Kelly Air Force Base to its current location at 1400 West Villaret Blvd. Citizens of the South Side of San Antonio fought many years for a higher education institution to serve first-generation college students.
Palo Alto President Mike Flores said, “Palo Alto is a wonderful place, so we’re celebrating our 30-year anniversary and the hundred thousand students that have been educated during that time. And it is all due to the work of the faculty and staff and everybody coming together to support students and support their hopes and aspirations.”
Many alumni enjoyed Palo Alto so much that they decided that this was the place for them to start their careers. Elizabeth Aguilar–Villarreal, who was the first student to enroll at Palo Alto College, is now the director of Enrollment Management. Countless times she said that what she enjoyed about working at Palo Alto was that the college has become more involved with high school students who never thought of college as an option after graduation.
“I’m really excited now that even South San High School is becoming an early college campus by 100 percent, and we are working closely with them, and I can always say I was at South San and I wasn’t top 10 percent because I wasn’t…but, if you just study hard, it will come,” she said.
Starting Fall 2015, Palo Alto College is partnering with South San High School for the early college program to give all incoming freshman the opportunity to obtain as associate’s degree at the same time they are earning their high school diploma.
Palo Alto College is not what it used to be. A lot has changed in 30 years. Many new additions have been made to the campus. In 2009, the school added a Veterinary Technology building and a new top-of-the line Performing Arts Center, which includes a 400-seat theater, speech and drama classrooms, dance and recording studios, a recital hall and an art gallery.
“In order for us to attract students, we know that we need to have those programs that make students want to come to school here. It is good; we are headed in the right direction,” said Aguilar-Villarreal.
Along with the 30-year celebration of Palo Alto, South San senior high school students unveiled a time capsule on February 24 that was full of letters and mementos. When they were third graders in 2005 at Palo Alto Elementary, students wrote to themselves about their goals after graduation. Each student who was involved in the ceremony was offered a full two-year scholarship from Palo Alto College once they completed high school.
Ricardo Perez, one of the students who took part in this ceremony, said, “This scholarship is very helpful. We are going to be able to get our basics done…for free. By the time I finish, I will be relatively debt free, and for that, I am so grateful to everyone at Palo Alto.”