Disabilities don’t stop PAC students

By Monique Rodriguez-Martinez
Pulse Staff Reporter

Sylvia De Hoyos instructs a Project Access class. Photo by Monique Rodriguez-Martinez.

Palo Alto College believes everyone has a chance to succeed. That’s why Palo Alto College launched Project Access for students with disabilities in Fall 2016. 

Project Access is a program only available here at Palo Alto College, one of five Alamo Colleges. Project Access’ goal is to provide access to higher education for San Antonio students with disabilities. Project Access is for students with mild to moderate disabilities and allows them to take college-level courses. This is the first program of its kind in San Antonio, and it was founded by PAC administrators, staff and faculty. 

Project Access prepares students with beneficial skills they will need in the work force. Senior Coordinator of the Disability Support Services office, Cindy Morgan said,
“Project Access is a unique program offered to individuals with documented intellectual disabilities. It is designed to support the student to access post-secondary education, developing skills for gainful employment.”

Maryjane Lopez a work-study student for Palo Alto College working in the DSS office said, “For students who aren’t able to write for themselves or have visual impairments, we got to the class with them, and we’re basically their hands and their eyes.” 

Project Access is coming up on its third year since being launched and has served 50 students to date. Morgan said the eligibility criteria for Project Access is having an intellectual disability diagnosis, a high school/GED diploma, a 4th – 6th grade reading level and be verbal. 

Lovetta Petty, who also works in the DSS office as a work-study, said that all the college courses the Project Access students choose have to be approved by Morgan. 

Felix Perez, who is also a work-study student working in the DSS office, said Project Access helps students succeed. 

“It helps them in the work field and prepare for real-life situations on getting stuff done. Some do job applications, computer networking and how to manage things for themselves without anyone helping them,” said Perez. 

Class of 2018 Project Access students. Photo courtesy the DSS Office.

Project Access students are earning a General Office Level 1 Certificate. The classes students take within three semesters students are Foundations for College Learning, Beginning Keyboarding, Business English, Administrative Office Procedures 1, Records and Information, Business Math and Job Search Skills.

Lopez said, “One of us is assigned to a certain class with Project Access, and they take notes for the whole class and they get distributed through email. We go through the steps with them on how to get accommodations here.” 

Leticia Villarreal, DSS work-study student, said the Project Access class that she is assigned to teaches students what to do and what not to do in a job interview, how to properly shake a hand and make eye contact, among other things. She also mentioned they do role play, where one student is the interviewer and the other is the interviewee. That is what students are learning in the classroom, getting prepared for the work field. 

Petty said in her class they teach them how to plan ahead of time, how to file documents and different orders to file documents. They also teach the students how to write emails and professionally communicate with their boss. 

Dr. Rose Zambrano instructs a Project Access class. Photo by Monique Rodriguez-Martinez.

Project Access is helpful to San Antonio students with disabilities and gives them a classroom setting where all students can ask for help with a comfortable number of other students in the classroom.

“The cohort model of students progressing through their coursework together helps, as well as the max class size of 10 students,” said Morgan.

For more information on Project Access, visit the Disabilities Support Services office located in Room 116 in the Palomino Center, or contact the DSS office at (210) 486-3020.

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