Progress is Not Linear

When you were a kid, how did you envision spending your twenties? I know I had a pretty rosy picture of myself finally being able to live life by my own rules and following my wildest dreams. I mean we all did, right?

I saw myself balancing all of my most exciting adventures with my definition of success, fueled by a degree. As a little kid and even in high school leading up to the great leap of adulthood, I always figured I would “be on the right track,” and stay there, ever steadily moving forward and up. Obviously, I thought, by my 30’s I’d have everything more or less set up and figured out for myself so that I could live a happy and healthy life. Forever and ever.

As I am sure many can relate, this is not how my 2nd decade on this earth went. To be honest, I had a tough time in my twenties. It began in my first year of high school, where I fell in love.

First love, right? Well, first loves sometimes turn out to be maniacally abusive sociopaths. Sometimes, they stick around for several years until you finally muster up the guts to run away in your bare feet just before your 19th birthday to a gas station and beg to use the phone to call your dad. And you liberate yourself from the pit of despair and you think, okay, I know what to do. I’m going to fix everything and get back on track.

So, long story short, I bit off way more than I could chew. I took such a huge bite I nearly choked to death. I spent the next several years repeating this cycle. Trying to “fix what I had ruined” by taking on too much, crashing and burning, hitting reset. Rinse and repeat. On two separate occasions, I attempted an associate’s degree with the Alamo Colleges and on both occasions, I failed to be successful because I refused to face how unhealthy I was, emotionally and mentally.

It wasn’t until my Stepmom asked me point blank one day at 25 years old if I was feeling suicidal that I finally admitted I needed help. I was diagnosed with PTSD and a few other mental health disorders. I spent the next few years recovering with the help of therapy and my family. Shedding weight, readjusting my life and goals to what I could manage and balance. And to what actually made sense for me.

I cannot fully explain it, but 11 years after I freed myself from my trauma, I woke up one New Year’s Day, and suddenly, I was overwhelmed with relief. It was like I was finally coming up for air for the first time, even after finding peace. And I realized that although I was in recovery, and feeling better than ever, I was still in full-on ostrich mode with my head in the sand. I was playing it safe, too scared to risk my newfound healthy and stable place of well-being.

I never thought I would be able to risk going back to school and failing again. But guess what? I decided by not pushing myself to reach my potential, I was still telling myself I wasn’t good enough. So, the spring before my 31st birthday I returned to the Alamo Colleges after my two previous failed attempts. I was able to bring my GPA up from a lowly 1.8 and back into good standing after 1 semester.

I’m now halfway through my 3rd semester since returning, still going strong. I have prioritized my goals but am working on them at a pace that is manageable and realistic for me. I wanted to share my story with you all in case there is anyone out there who might be feeling like maybe it’s too late or too much of a pipe dream to make a change. Maybe you feel like you’ve screwed your life up beyond repair. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Maybe you’re in school right now and you’re struggling with something personal and it’s interfering with your academic success and your mental health. My advice to anyone experiencing anything similar is this. Please reach out to someone and let them know how you’re feeling and what you’re struggling with. If I had just had the guts to be honest about how much I was struggling I could have saved myself a lot of trouble and pain, not to mention precious time.

It may seem cliché, but it really is true that it’s never too late to go after what you want. You are worth it. But please know that if you are in school and you are struggling with something that is damaging your mental health, there is also no shame in pairing back.

Maybe take one class less or take a semester off. Consult with your advisor on how best to approach it so you can prevent damaging your GPA like I did (but if you do damage your GPA, do not shame yourself into believing you’re doomed, please). That way, when you are ready to return, you can pick up where you left off, even if you end up wanting to take a different direction.

If you burn out and your flame runs too low to function on a healthy level, something is going to give. Do not let that something be you. Let your definition of success also include making your well-being a priority. Making your personal success the priority will in turn set you up in the best way for your academic and professional successes.

By NVC Student Kyla Vance

If you need advice, resources or help, please reach out to NVC’s Student Advocacy & Resource Center. They provide a variety of services including mental health and counseling. 

The Right Time is Now!

In my family, a good work ethic was expected of me from a very young age. My parents always stressed that anything worth having could only be achieved through hard work. As a first-generation American, this was amplified by the idea that as foreigners in this country, the only way to be successful was to work (and to work hard). Of course, they also expected me to excel at my studies, but in school, being an honor roll student was not nearly as impressive to my family as becoming a manager at my retail job.

By the time I graduated high school, my mother was raising us on her own. We were doing well, but not well enough to afford college. I decided to take a year off and work to put myself through school. I had a good job and made good money before I even graduated high school. I told myself I would work one year, save some money and go back to school. Then, before I knew it, a decade had come and gone. I had spent the last 10 years at the same job, prioritizing work over my dreams.

Unfortunately, like many people worldwide, I lost my job last March due to the pandemic. For the first time in a decade, I had the opportunity to stop and reflect on what I was doing with my life. Ten years I spent at a job that I knew I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. It took unemployment and a pandemic to realize that while I was working hard, I wasn’t working towards my goals. I was merely working.

Thankfully, things have been going better than I could have ever imagined. I am currently back in school pursuing the career of my dreams at Northwest Vista College. After so much time off from school, I was nervous about returning, as I am sure many others are. The staff at Alamo Colleges was a big help in easing my nerves. From career counseling to finding the right online degree program for me, they encouraged me to let go of my fears and get back to pursuing my dreams. I am currently wrapping up my first semester back to school, and in eight weeks, I have learned so much. My summer courses covered everything from working with multiple Adobe programs to the basics of HTML, and I hope to use these skills to start my own business one day.

I chose to write about this topic because I know there are numerous other students in a similar situation. The world we live in instills in us that financial security is equivalent to success. I believe having a good job isn’t the same as being successful. For me, success comes from finding your purpose in life and pursuing your dreams. Therefore, to anyone who is considering returning to school or is putting it off for the “right” time, the right time is now. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it.

By NVC Student Janeth Cruz

NVC Scholarships & Undergrad Research Projects in Nano Program

The NanoEngineering program at NVC will be offering undergraduate research projects and workshops in fall 2021. The students who are enrolled in the Nano program and/or are taking nanotechnology courses can participate in these workshops and will receive a stipend up to $1,800. Students will be trained on using microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, biomedical engineering projects, and nano-electronics.

This is a great learning opportunity and also helps students financially. If there are open slots, other NVC STEM students may be considered. To receive the stipend, students must successfully complete and participate in the workshop. 

Space is limited so if you’re interested in these workshops, please email Dr. Neda Habibi, coordinator of NanoEngineering program at nhabibi@alamo.edu.

 

Easing Anxiety with the Help of NVC

Can you imagine wanting to attend your favorite class, filled with your favorite people to learn about your favorite subject? But just as you’re standing outside the door of the class, suddenly you’re overwhelmed with the feeling of regret, fear, and your stomach starts churning? Being someone with anxiety, this is something I struggle with daily.

Anxiety is an enemy of public places, especially colleges and their campuses. When I want to focus on the information and having fun with my fellow peers, that is instead surrounded by a sea of uncertainty and a strong desire to flee away to be by myself. It made my entry into college life very difficult for me because I often thought about ways to distract myself or spend all day fidgeting in class.

But things took a great turn when I decided to gather up my courage and head for NVC’s Mental Health Counseling. I thought at first it wouldn’t help, but because it’s a resource we have available, I thought I’d give it a try. And let me tell you, I don’t regret it in the slightest. I remember being so nervous and uncomfortable, waiting to be seated with a counselor. What if I was going to be judged? What if they couldn’t understand what I was going through? A lot of these thoughts burdened me in that waiting room until a counselor finally approached me and led me into her office. You wouldn’t believe that just after a few minutes, my worry was swept away.

My counselor was very understanding of my situation, and knew exactly what I was going through. They listened to everything I had to say and made sure that out of everything, I was comfortable. They provided small exercises to suggest helping my anxiety, and even offered to schedule future appointments to talk about my progress and how my day was going.

I was initially worried my experience would be somewhat like an interrogation. But I was far from the truth, it felt like I was talking to an old friend of mine. Ever since, I felt more comfortable approaching that office to talk about my problems with anxiety, and are working hard to work alongside my anxiety so that I can have a great college experience. I strongly recommend giving them a visit if you have any concerns with your emotional or mental health. You won’t regret it!

To learn more about counseling, call the NVC Advocacy Center at 210-486-HELP (4357), or email nvc-advocacyctr@alamo.edu. Students can also complete some initial intake forms by going to the Advocacy website.

By NVC Student Gina Briggs

 

STEM Careers Pandemic Proof

STEM workers are in demand! Engineering and STEM-related jobs will take precedence in the employment industry through 2029 according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — professions are expected to increase 8% between 2019 and 2029, compared to just 3.4% for all other careers. Even more impressive, the median annual STEM wage is $86,980 a year, compared to $38,160 for all non-STEM jobs.

Also WalletHub.com ranked four Texas cities in the top 60 of its list of the Best Cities for STEM jobs. Although San Antonio ranked No. 58 on the list that was released last month, Austin ranked No. 4, and its proximity to San Antonio is beneficial.

This is good news for engineering students in Northwest Vista College’s new partnership with UTSA called TATE which stands for Transfer Academy for Tomorrow’s Engineers program. It allows NVC students to co-enroll at both institutions and take engineering courses taught by UTSA and NVC faculty. Upon completion of the NVC component and an associate’s degree in hand, students will continue courses at UTSA to obtain their bachelor’s degree in any of the six UTSA engineering degree programs, which includes Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Civil Engineering. UTSA also has a partnership with Lone Star College, a community college in Houston.

Students interested in the TATE program are welcome to attend a virtual meeting on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 3:30 pm. To sign up and get Zoom details, go here.

What are some of the benefits of TATE? First, students will be able shave off about $8,800 from their tuition and fees by attending a community college first.

Second, students in this program will be the envy of their peers at summer internships. Many of the summer jobs are from companies that pay about $18 an hour – more than doubled the current minimum wage in Texas. Just in the Lonestar State, there are nearly 100 companies that offer summer internships and many are in the San Antonio area, such as U.S. Air Force, Valero Energy, H-E-B, Intel, CPS, USAA, IBM, Accenture, and Proctor & Gamble. After graduation, UTSA says the starting salary for engineers averages about $60,797.

Third, this joint program opens the doors for many students who don’t have the resources to purse an engineering degree. NVC students who are on financial aid can participate in the AlamoPromise program, that along with other financial resources, can end up making college free.

Finally, the partnership allows students to strengthen their math skills to get calculus ready for their final two years at UTSA. With NVC’s strong math department and tutoring program, it can transform students who started in lower-level math development courses and get them calculus ready in their first two years at NVC.

To learn more about the program and its requirements, which includes being calculus ready, visit the NVC website at https://www.alamo.edu/nvc/academics/tate/

Easier Transition to Engineering Degrees for Students

Northwest Vista College students will now be able to get an easier transition to a bachelor’s degree in Engineering with a new partnership between Alamo Colleges and the The University of Texas at San Antonio.

TATE, which stands for UTSA Transfer Academy for Tomorrow’s Engineers (TATE) program, will allow NVC students to co-enroll at both institutions, and take engineering courses taught by UTSA and NVC faculty. Upon completion of the NVC component of the program, students will continue courses at UTSA to obtain their bachelor’s degree in any of the six UTSA engineering degree programs, which includes Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Civil Engineering.

Qiaoying “Joy” Zhou and Thomas Pressley of NVC’s Math and Engineering department said that through TATE, NVC students will transfer to UTSA as true juniors without missing key courses and key prerequisites. The program was designed for 30 students per cohort.

This new program provides many benefits to students. It makes the transfer process streamlined and gives them an opportunity to earn an associate of science degree at NVC while pursuing a bachelor’s degree. And, it also gives NVC students access to top employers including the U.S. Air Force, Valero Energy, H-E-B, Intel, CPS, USAA, IBM, Accenture, Proctor & Gamble, and more.

Joy and Thomas added this joint admissions program also opens the door for many students who don’t have the resources to an engineering degree. It provides students who are economically disadvantaged with the opportunity to start at Alamo Colleges at low cost (or no cost through AlamoPromise) while still being able to keep pace with their UTSA counterparts and graduate with a bachelors in engineering in four years total.

Additionally, students who are not mathematically prepared to start a university engineering program in calculus in their first freshman semester, can attend Alamo Colleges for a pre-summer or even a pre-fall semester to work on their math level before joining the program.

TATE is looking for new students and on July 9 will hold a virtual information session from 3 pm to 5 pm. To attend the session, go to this link.

To learn more about the program and its requirements, which includes being calculus ready, visit the NVC website at https://www.alamo.edu/nvc/academics/tate/

Thank You for Making Education a Priority

Dear NVC Students,

Thank you for making education a priority. With so much happening around us right now in regards to the coronavirus, you may be wondering what the future holds.

As a parent and grandparent, who has two sons in college and a granddaughter in elementary school, education is important to me on a personal and professional level.

As your president, I want to assure you that Northwest Vista College is doing everything possible to keep our students, faculty and staff safe and to provide needed resources for remote learning as well as advocacy services such as how to obtain food, counseling, how to file for unemployment or speak to someone about domestic abuse and other resources.

Please continue to stay in college and reach out to your instructor or advisor if you need help with anything. You may also refer to this web page for resources:  https://www.alamo.edu/nvc/about-us/our-college/remote-learning/students/

Thank you.

Dr. Ric Baser
NVC President

 

Follow Your Passion to a Degree

College can be intimidating no matter how old you are. I tried attending school twice before and life just got in the way. Now, I am 26 years old with school age kids, working full-time and planning a wedding. I decided to go back to school in December of 2017, because after two failed attempts at school, I finally know what I want to be when I grow up!

I listened to other people on what I should get my degree in. You can never go wrong with a business degree, they said. I didn’t actually stop to think about what I was interested in or passionate about. Just what would make me the most money, or land me a job. So, I tried pursuing my degree in Business Management with the intent to transfer to a university. I had amazing professors, but I just was not interested in the classes so I fell behind.

After talking to many friends, family, colleagues and by passers, it seems that this is more common than I thought. So many of us get caught up in the money we can possibly make in the future, rather than what will make us happy. I’ve realized that if you love something, whether it be art, fitness, literature or whatever, there is always a way to make money off of your passions. This is why I’m now choosing to pursue an associates degree in Digital Media at Northwest Vista. I would never have guessed that my hobby of playing on Adobe Photoshop would be able to make me money one day. The classes feel like a breeze because I’m engaged with the material, rather than another boring class I have no interest in.

For those of you just starting out, or maybe you are considering school again, I would suggest to make sure you are truly pursuing your passions. One degree might not sound as important as another, but they all matter.

By NVC student Viviana Smith

NVC Graduate Gets Ready for International CrossFit Games

NVC Graduate Goes to CrossFit Games
L to R: Jessica Aelvoet, Casey Viator, Gio Contreras, Joceline Marie Gonzales

On most days of the week, you can find Northwest Vista College graduate Giovanni “Gio” Contreras coaching classes at LoneStar CrossFit in San Antonio – motivating students to get through a tough workout, do a few more pushups, keep their back straight when doing squats or giving advice about nutrition.

Between coaching, finishing up his master’s degree in accounting from UTSA, and waiting on the birth of his first son, Gio and a team of three other people train for several hours a day with the goal of grabbing the top spot in the team division from the international CrossFit games in early August.

The LoneStar team was the only team that qualified from San Antonio to compete at the Reebok CrossFit Regionals recently. They snagged the coveted fourth spot out of five in order to get to the international competition in Madison, Wisconsin. Just 40 teams from all over the world will vie for the No. 1 spot. In addition to Gio, the LoneStar team consists of Jessica Aelvoet, Casey Viator and Joceline Marie Gonzales.

“I knew I would get here eventually. It has been one of my goals since I discovered CrossFit in 2013,” Contreras said, who’s also a U.S. Marine reservist and got hooked on the sport when he was stationed in Afghanistan in 2013.

NVC Graduate Goes to CrossFit Games

He’s accomplished this in just five years though it has come with a lot of determination after bouncing back from knee surgery, while also pursuing a higher education. Gio first attempted college in 2008, but didn’t take it seriously and joined the military. He chose to come back to Vista because of small class sizes and the campus environment. In 2015, he earned an associate degree in accounting.

It also helps that NVC is only four miles from LoneStar CrossFit, which attracts a lot students, faculty and staff to the facility. In 2016, Contreras qualified as an individual competitor to go to the CrossFit Regionals. He repeated this feat again this year, however, he said it’s much more fun to compete as a team.

When Gio and his teammates head to Madison, he will not only have his LoneStar family cheering him on, but much of the San Antonio CrossFit community and his fellow Wildcats at Northwest Vista College.

Two NVC Students Get Funding in “Shark Tank” Style Competition

Two Northwest Vista College students recently took part in an Alamo Colleges “Shark Tank” competition and came out unbitten and with some investor funds to help turn their ideas into profitable businesses.

NVC student Jorge Latorre; San Antonio College (SAC) student Angela Costlow, and Joel Robbins of St. Philip’s College (SPC) won second place and $3,000 for their business called Veteran’s Property Renovation that is a veteran-managed company targeting key renovations to maximize property values.

Alexandria Borrero, an NVC student, and Brian Etheridge, a student at Palo Alto College, won third place and $1,500 for their business called Ali-Rooz, which will offer custom screen-printed athletic wear produced and sold out of a “fashion truck” that can offer its products on site at events.

The first place honor and $5,000 went to Lakeisha Matthews, a student at SPC, Melissa Rodriguez, a SAC student, and Tracy Watts and Thermajean Jones, SPC faculty members, for their Kid Car-go business, which is a concept for a rideshare company to transport children using moms from the same school districts as drivers to work or after-school programs.

The competition was sponsored by Alamo Colleges’ The Learning Company, which is a six-week program that encourages student entrepreneurs to turn their “big ideas” into reality. Students and faculty participate in free innovation boot camps where they are trained and mentored by experienced instructors and business partners.

“I am so proud of the students and faculty members who have devoted a great deal of time and hard work to making their big ideas into real-world products and businesses,” said Alamo Colleges Chancellor Dr. Bruce Leslie. “We started The Learning Company to provide additional opportunities to our students to become successful entrepreneurs in a format designed specifically for community college students. With the support of our community partners and outstanding leadership, we have students who are already seeing their ideas realized,” he added.

Other teams also were recognized for their achievements. The Early Birdies team won the Change-Maker award. The Grindhouse award for perseverance went to the Showstopper team and the IC2 Best Business Model honor went to the Texas Revolution team. A number of other individuals from the Alamo Colleges District also were recognized for their encouragement and support of The Learning Company program and the teams.

Past winners of The Learning Company have gone on to launch companies, received funding from investors and begin manufacturing of their products.

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