Project Access students succeed; program grows

February 19, 2018

Public Relations

Palo Alto College, part of the Alamo Colleges District, is committed to providing access to higher education for the entire community—including individuals with special needs. That’s why in fall 2016, the College launched Project Access, a program for students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities to take college-level courses to earn their 16-credit General Office Level 1 Certificate and acquire necessary skills for gainful employment and a successful future.

“The goal is to help these students do something with their future,” said Cindy Morgan, coordinator of student success for Disability Support Services (DSS). “I’ve gotten to spend time with the students and realized that it is making an impact on their lives.”

As the first program of its kind in San Antonio, Project Access began with a small cohort of students who piloted the program. Since then, the program has more than tripled in size, with students coming from all parts of San Antonio and surrounding communities. 

“I learned a lot of stuff,” said Jessica Giddens, a student from the first Project Access cohort. “Some of it was hard, but my favorite thing that I learned was job skills… They taught me a lot as a person, and I’m going to get a job one day.”

Of the first cohort of students, 100 percent completed their certification program in December 2017 and will participate in the College’s annual commencement ceremony in May 2018.

All of the courses these students take are stackable – meaning students can use the college credits to continue their education and earn additional certificates and degrees. In fact, 85 percent of the first cohort is now pursuing a Data Entry Technician Level 1 Certificate. As the program grows, Project Access is planning to partner with other academic programs as well.

“Anybody with a disability can attend Palo Alto College and be successful,” said Giddens. “I have a disability which is Down Syndrome, and I’m successful. I tell people don’t limit me, and I tell all people with disabilities — don’t limit yourself.”

Anyone interested in learning more can attend the Project Access Open House on Tuesday, April 17, from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Legacy Room (Ozuna 101). For questions about DSS accommodations, call 210-486-3020 or visit alamo.edu/pac/admissions/dss.

“Don’t give up on your dreams, even if there’s barriers,” said Giddens. “There’s no limit—just do what you gotta do.”