Express News Column on PAC GED Graduates

Below is a column recently published in the San Antonio Express News about Palo Alto's Adult Learning Academy. If you would like to learn more about obtaining your GED, please contact Program Manager, Dolores Zapata, at 486-3410.

Fabulous group to aid Palo Alto GED grads

For the past six years, a fabulous group of San Antonio women have helped put on a highly successful fundraiser toward a singular goal: Helping other women men, too pay for and earn their high-school equivalency diploma.

In the context of a city pushing higher education and its four-year state university working toward Tier One status, a GED might not seem like a major academic milestone. But for students congregated in blue-, pink- and low-income white-collar jobs, a GED represents sacrifice and promise.

Led by former UnivisiĆ³n anchor and talk show host Martha Tijerina, the women who run the Fabulous Holiday Brunch have raised $270,000 in six years, benefiting San Antonio College; $100,000 of it has   been endowed at the Alamo Colleges.

This year, they’re turning their attention south to Palo Alto College’s Adult Learning Academy, where 26 GED graduates crossed the stage at graduation recently. Those who were there say it was an emotion-filled experience. It’s an example of how Palo Alto has worked to make the idea of college both familiar and familial to students.

Program manager Dolores Zapata says even the academy’s space in the main administrative building near President Mike Flores’ office suggests its importance.
“They can meet the president,” she says.

It’s no small gesture, as it immediately elevates the student’s place at the college.

Palo Alto has worked to raise academic standards for them, “recasting the program to empower students to reach their potential beyond GED.”

They’re issued ID cards, as are other students. The academy provides individual counseling “so the students feel they’re part of our community and part of the college culture,” she says. “They can go to the tutoring lab and the fitness center, everything our college students enjoy.”

Zapata not only interviews potential students, but members of their families. “I’m talking to the child holding the mother’s hand, or the wife that comes with her husband,” she says.

This pathway to higher learning is profound, especially since adult learners have been so stigmatized. If they say their public school failed them, Zapata listens. “When those conversations are being had, we learn so much more,” she says.

Palo Alto believes these new approaches are more holistic and hopeful and says results were evident at graduation. Wearing the same caps and   gowns as students earning associate degrees, 26 GED students were handed diplomas and shook hands with Flores and other dignitaries.

“I can’t tell you how moving it was,” Zapata says. “I could see achievement all over them.”

Fifty-one students are now enrolled in the program’s four eight-week sessions. Classes are held days, evenings and in English and Spanish. Instructors are public school teachers who are degreed and board certified.

Students range in age from 17 to 61. They’re mostly Latino and mostly women (the school is working on that).

“Some of them love their jobs and have been asked to earn their GEDs so they can be promoted,” Zapata says. Others definitely have intentions of going to college.

The program costs $99. The college administers the four-part GED test, which cost another $135. Texas now allows students to take each of the four parts separately, at $33.75 a pop. It’s telling that students schedule   their tests on pay days, because that’s when they can afford them.

The GED fundraiser — which will honor outgoing SAC President Robert Zeigler for his key support in it will help Palo Alto students with costs of classes and testing. Some will get college scholarships, too, which brings us back to the women of the fabulous brunch.

Every event motivates them to do more. So, here’s a story that might assist as they work on selling tickets and tables for the seventh annual brunch Dec. 13 at the Omni Hotel.

As Zapata shook hands with her latest crop of GED graduates, she also whispered something to each of them.

“You can do this again in two years,” she said.

Indeed, next time, they could be receiving associate degrees, fitting right in with the city’s education agenda that starts with Pre-K.   Twitter: @ElaineAyala

On the Road to Success

From GED Enrollment to College Ready

Marisol Del Carmen Alcorta enrolled in the Corporate and Community Education (CCE) - General Education Diploma (GED) course at Palo Alto College during the Fall of 2013, passed the official GED exam in the Spring of 2014 and is now enrolled and currently taking Pre-Nursing courses here at PAC.

Although Alcorta was homeschooled for two years during her high school career and continually studied on her own, she never officially completed the homeschool program, which left her without a Diploma. But she knew she wanted to attend college, stating, “When I turned sixteen I was intent on going to college and I wanted to get in as soon as possible.”

So, when inquiring about college courses here at PAC, she was referred to the CCE Adult Learning Academy to assist her in obtaining her GED. Alcorta stated, “[The GED program] helped me not only to feel more confident about taking the test, but it also allowed me to interact with others and through group activities and working with partners it gave me a hint of what college is all about.”

The GED program now includes an 8-week college preparation course, which provides a foundation for the various skills needed in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics for the college entry exam (TSI). Students will also receive a TABE and Accuplacer assessment, along with the tools needed to excel in both college and career.

The Adult Learning Academy provides both GED and ESL courses, affordable prices with highly qualified instructors, flexible schedules with morning or evening courses, and full preparation in English or Spanish. To learn more about the GED and ESL courses, contact the program manager, Dolores Zapata, at (210) 486-3410 or log onto

Oil & Gas Technology Programs

Palo Alto College is now offering an Associate degree program in Oil & Gas Technology after receiving approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in June 2013. To view all of the course information on these courses, please check out the online course catalog.

Corporate & Community Education also offers certificate training courses related to the Oil & Gas field, such as safe employee training: OSHA, HAZWOPER, TXDOT, Customs; Pipe Welding and Layout; and PLC technology. Contact Director of Workforce Training, David Rutkoski at 210-486-3411 or for more information on certificate courses or customized training opportunities.

Featured News Stories about these programs:

Palo Alto College: Access to Education

Take a glimpse into the history of Palo Alto College with this article, written by the President, Dr. Mike Flores:

First Day of Summer Program, Children's Leadership Academy

Palo Alto College
Corporate & Community Education Division
Children's Leadership Academy

Today, June 17, 2013, marked the first day of the Children's Leadership Academy. The eager students were excited to see the famous San Antonio ventriloquist, Nacho Estrada. Many different life lessons were learned through the comedic Estrada and friends, "Mijo" and "Maclovio," such as not watching too much T.V., always using a computer with adult supervision, and never to bully other people.

Palo Alto College's Children's Leadership Academy is designed to give children the opportunity to experience learning beyond the classroom setting. The summer program consists of three two-week sessions that will teach students, age 5-10, leadership, character development, academic, art, dance, and physical education.

Students will learn theories, practice techniques, apply critical thinking skills, and participate in team building exercises that they can apply to school, sports, and community involvement. Aside from Nacho Estrada's performance, the children will also enjoy field trips to the San Antonio Zoo and Natural Bridge Caverns.

To Learn more about the Children's Leadership Academy, visit or call (210) 486-3400.

Computer Repair Students Gain Hands-On Training

Palo Alto College
Corporate and Community Education Division
Computer Repair Technician Job-Entry Program - Free PC Clinic

Saturday, April 13, 2013, the students of the Computer Repair Technician program from CCE's CompTIA Academy were prepared to troubleshoot, fix, and offer recommendations to clients about their personal computers free of charge, courtesy of the Corporate and Community Education Division at Palo Alto College. 

The students were offering their assistance from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the experienced advice from Instructor, Laura Maldonado. 

Many different computer-technical problems were brought to the attention of these students that day, such as computer viruses, hardware and software issues, "slow" computers due to lack of memory and older models that were in need of upgrades, requiring the students to use their knowledge gained from the program in a hands-on approach.

Communicating with clients was also a valuable experience these students gained at this clinic. They learned exactly the kind of problems that usually arise with different types of computers along with what questions to ask and recommendations to give to each client depending on their specific scenario.

To learn more about our Computer Repair program or find out how to register, call 210-486-3400 or log onto our website.

For more photos, log onto our facebook page!