Palo Alto opens early college high school

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Palo Alto College President Mike Flores tells the community that early college high school programs will expand students' preparedness during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 21 at Palo Alto College. Photo by Neven Jones

Palo Alto College President Mike Flores tells the community that early college high school programs will expand students’ preparedness during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 21 at Palo Alto College. Photo by Neven Jones

ABC News correspondent John Quiñones tells students and the community that teachers shouldn't judge students by their accent or the color of their skin at a Q and A session Aug.21 at the performing arts center at Palo Alto College. Quiñones couldn’t speak English when he began school. He spoke after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the early-college high school program at Palo Alto. Photo by Neven Jones

ABC News correspondent John Quiñones tells students and the community that teachers shouldn’t judge students by their accent or the color of their skin at a Q and A session Aug.21 at the performing arts center at Palo Alto College. Quiñones couldn’t speak English when he began school. He spoke after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the early-college high school program at Palo Alto. Photo by Neven Jones

ABC News correspondent John Quiñones offers advice at ceremony.

By Pam Paz

ppaz2@student.alamo.edu

A ceremonial ribbon cutting marked the beginning of Palo Alto College’s Early College High School program Thursday.

The early college high school program has partnered with Harlandale ISD, Southside ISD in partnership with Poteet and Lytle ISD, Somerset ISD and New Frontiers Charter School.

Students enrolled in this program will have the opportunity to earn an associate degree or up to 60 hours of college credits toward a bachelor’s degree.

About 75 people, including Alamo College board members, PAC faculty and staff and students, attended the ceremony at PAC’s botanical garden.

PAC President Mike Flores addressed the audience along with Anna Bustamante, chair of the Alamo Colleges board of trustees; state Sen. Carlos Uresti; and ABC News correspondent John Quiñones.

Flores said the program aims to prepare high school students for successful college completion. There are about 400 students enrolled in PAC’s early college high school program within the seven school districts, Flores said.

In 2013, 82 percent of early college high school students in the Alamo Colleges received an associate degree or certificate, which is three times the national average, Bustamante said.

Principal Jeffrey D. Flores said 73 freshman are enrolled in the first inaugural class.

Early college high school freshman Illiana Rodriguez spoke during the ceremony. She will attend the Frank Madla Early College High School campus.

Rodriguez said she heard about the program at one of the booths during the 2014 Fiesta celebration at the college.

“I decided to attend this high school because I did not want to be ordinary,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez also touched on how success is different for people and said failure should not define people.

Shortly after Rodriguez spoke, Quiñones told the audience he understood the struggles of trying to make a dream come true.

Quiñones, a San Antonio native, is a former student of this college.

“Education is the best way to get out of poverty,” Quiñones said.

After the ceremony, Quiñones spoke to students and faculty and led a question-and-answer session in the auditorium of the performing arts center.

During the session, Quiñones discussed how he fought adversity, being a Spanish speaker and learning the English language, and his rise to being a top news correspondent.

He also talked about how programs, like the Upward Bound Program, similar to the early college high school program helped him through college.

“Don’t ever let the fact that you can’t afford college hold you back,” Quiñones said. “There are programs out there.”

Quiñones offered this advice to students towards the end of the session, “My message to you, and don’t forget this, don’t listen to negative messages that society often gives us, especially to children of color, Hispanics and African-American people in this country.”

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