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SPC Graduate Stephen…

One St. Philip’s College student is keeping it triply real knowing he will receive his college degree a few days before he receives his high school diploma, particularly because he already received his first college credential a full year before finishing both college and high school.
2017 Automotive Technology Open House

SPC Graduate Stephen Cruz

One St. Philip’s College student is keeping it triply real knowing he will receive his college degree a few days before he receives his high school diploma, particularly because he already received his first college credential a full year before finishing both college and high school.

Early college high school student and college auto technology student Stephen Cruz is on track to become one of the members of the first May 2018 graduating class of the St. Philip's College Early College High School with San Antonio Independent School District, located at 1801 Martin Luther King Drive in the City's Denver Heights neighborhood.

But he’s kept what happened to him when he received the first of his college credentials---a certificate of completion---earned in May of 2017---mostly to himself.

And a short post-graduation conversation filled with reminiscences by Cruz offered both parents and prospective students a look into the thoughts of a modern day student.

"I was really scared. It was a scary thought to be on an actual college campus being able to get your associate or certificate. Fast forward, it became reality," Cruz said a few days after receiving his brake and front end specialist certificate of completion while attending a graduation ceremony held by the college back in May.

"The size of graduation was overwhelming. It was my first. It was weird to graduate college before you graduate high school. It’s not something you do on a daily basis," said Cruz. "The first cohort of a program this spectacular has its own set of nerves. Coming in as a freshman, the first semester was not that difficult. The second semester---with college classes---was kind of a big difference. It was all-day on Friday. Being in a college class was something not even normal college students feel---you are in the college lab half a day and you are in a college lecture room half day. That’s a big gap. The next semester we were college students. You are so much younger and more inexperienced, but you have to be on the same level as them to a certain extent. You have the majority but not all of their freedoms. You know you are different because there are guidelines you have to follow that they don’t," Cruz said.

"The way it’s set up now, there are three more graduations, including high school," Cruz shared. "There will be two certifications earned of the four possible tied together, my associate of applied science, and then my high school, last time I checked," said Cruz, a 2014 alumnus of Rhodes Middle School on Tampico St.

"Some asked me simple questions when they first met me. Like, what are you studying? How far are you? How many hours do you get? How’d did you get into this?” Cruz shared.

“What does it all mean, the basic questions you come to hear from people you barely know? It’s not too complicated. but it is repetitive," said Cruz.

"When we first came for the orientation to college, there were three options, liberal arts, and associate of science in cybersecurity and auto technology," Cruz recalled. "They took us to the classrooms, we eventually got more choices and pathways, but just walking into the lab, the smell and feel of it... this is something I want to do is what I said to myself. I was intrigued about cars, keeping them running. I was tempted to go into cybersecurity, but it was a complete change of mind to commit to automotive, with multiple chances to change that day through registration. I never changed my answer. Remembering that experience, it was so lifelike and real, that once in a lifetime feeling. The first day of class was hectic with safety glasses and books. As soon as we sat down with the professor, I knew it was completely different from a high school class, not abiding by the high school rules. There was more freedom, in a lab completely bigger than any regular classroom. The way a professor talks to you is more like a peer and an equal instead of a teacher-to-student. Ever since that first class, I have never regretted being an automotive student" said Cruz.

"The college held an auto car show during the CultureFest the first year, and the professor who ran it was my teacher in my second semester in a college class," Cruz further recalled. "We volunteered to be part of it, a different experience, where we immediately went into a mind-blowing experience about what we could do. CultureFest was an amazing thing to volunteer for," Cruz said.

"I know one thing I want to do is to transfer to a university for a business degree to apply what I know, and to open up my own shop while also knowing how to fix cars too. Know both ends, being a businessperson and a technical worker, that's what I want to do,” Cruz said of his entrepreneurial objectives.

"I would love to travel to open more than one shop, it’s always been an interesting thing," said Cruz. "My family has been in the Navy, so traveling’s always in us. I would love to travel out of state, to get a better sense of what it’s like to actually live," said Cruz.

The next sessions in the San Antonio Independent School District season of family information sessions for enrollment in the district’s St. Philip's College Early College High School are scheduled for this month in the SPC Continuing Education Building at 1801 Martin Luther King Drive in the city's Denver Heights neighborhood (Building marked as "4" on the interactive map http://alamo.edu/spc/imap-mlk/. All sessions begin at 6 p.m. and will take place in the St. Philip's College Continuing Education Building, which is the administration building for the early college high school. Two of the sessions are in English and Spanish: Dec. 18 and Jan. 25. The English only session is Dec. 7.

For details, contact, Dr. Derrick Thomas, school principal, at 210-486-2406, dthomas@saisd.net.

CAPTION: The Automotive Technology Open House programs at St. Philip’s College are a big attraction to prospective students and current students who begin studying the profession at the college level as early as high school. (SPC image)

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