Palo Alto College celebrates 30 of its 100,000 students

By Katharina Guttenberg
Pulse Staff Reporter

Photo of The trees in Palo Alto College's central courtyard have grown over the past 30 years, providing busy students a beautiful place to relax.
The trees in Palo Alto College’s central courtyard have grown over the past 30 years, providing busy students a beautiful place to relax. Photo by Katharina Guttenberg.

Let’s go back 30 years. Elizabeth Aguilar-Villarreal, the first student to enroll in Palo Alto College, was just finishing up her first semester at the temporary campus near Kelly Air Force Base. She was the first person in her family attend college. Fast forward to now. She has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and is currently the college’s director of Enrollment Management. Palo Alto College has had similar success stories with many alumni who are making great strides in and around San Antonio.

The college will showcase 30 alumni to the public and will include a timeline and video to celebrate its history and students. President Mike Flores said current and former students will be invited to a Capstone Celebration in March.

“As part of the college’s 30th Anniversary, Palo Alto College sought to recognize thirty exceptional former students who are achieving great success in their professional and personal endeavors—‘30 for 30,’” said Leticia Inocencio, senior coordinator of Alumni and Scholarships.

PAC has enrolled 100,000 students over the past 30 years. Flores believes that reading the profiles of alumni will give current students role models to look up to and encourage them to continue their education.

Many former students were so inspired by the professors they had at PAC that they ended up being teachers themselves. Celestino Valentin and his wife Marie Valentin now teach at PAC and have also been the inspiration for members of their families to obtain their college degrees.

In addition to using their education from PAC to further their careers, alumni are also involved in helping the community. Bill Gamez is an Atascosa County Juvenile Probation Officer and legal assistant. Outside of work, he mentors to kids and speaks to them about the dangers of drugs. His favorite professor was Larry Losoya, and they are still in contact. Gamez was involved in the development of the 2+2 program that helped Grace Coultress further her education to get where she is today. She now teaches at Hill Country Academy in Fair Oaks Ranch and helps run a family business, Old West Burgers.

Another impact PAC has made is molding alumni so they can be a positive part of the San Antonio community. Included in the mix are local artists of San Antonio. Ben Mata exhibits his art around the country, and Claudio Aguillon paints murals and sells his artwork.

Jeff Sorrell, M.D., is very involved in the medical community. He also taught science at PAC as an adjunct. Dr. Jose Reyes is now a dentist at Alamo City Dental.

Elizabeth “Libby” Castillo and Steven Sanchez both work in marketing and public relations. Castillo is with the San Antonio Zoo, and Sanchez is with the San Antonio AIDS Foundation.

“Each one of them has demonstrated and contributed to their community,” Flores said. “We wanted a good mix of individuals who represented a broad array of professions and experiences as well as community involvement.”

Thirty years later PAC has changed in many ways. The campus has grown and students come and go, but the students who went through Palo Alto College are the biggest change and the best thing PAC has given to the surrounding community.