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SPC Graduate Blanca…

When a St. Philip’s College student walks the graduation stage Dec. 15 at Freeman Coliseum, a 30-year quest to earn a degree will be over. And a new chapter will begin.
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SPC Graduate Blanca Leal-Partida

When a St. Philip’s College student walks the graduation stage Dec. 15 at Freeman Coliseum, a 30-year quest to earn a degree will be over.

And a new chapter will begin.

The student who graduates in 14 days is Blanca Leal-Partida. A scholar at the college, Partida spoke as she challenged herself by acquiring a bevy of skills to match her passion and sense of inquiry.

Partida is one of the college’s three Student Engagement Scholars with a special duty that was not available to students 30 years ago. She leads by example to help San Antonio seniors go healthier and greener while they share knowledge as guests in the first working 100 percent organic community garden on San Antonio’s East Side, doing various jobs in the garden project under the leadership of natural sciences faculty member Kathy White.

“I started college at night school while I worked days at a law firm in San Antonio 30 years ago,” Partida recounts. “I'm pretty excited to get the associate of arts degree at St. Philip’s College, and it only took me 30 years to get it,” she said with a smile and no sense of irony.

“I studied psychology at St. Philip’s College because I love biology and I see myself being a counselor,” explaining how her studies complement her community engagement in the garden located between residences at 1715 N. Center St. near the college.

“My husband got his HVAC repair degree from St. Philip's College and we have our own business,” Partida explained of her spouse Marcos Anthony "Tony" Partida, operator of Bravo Air and Heat. “He's had his HVAC license for more than 20 years now,” said Partida.

“We’ve been married 27 years, shortly after he returned to night school for his degree,” said Partida. “Back then, he worked in HVAC at Countywide Services after he graduated from St. Philip's College.”

The 6,500 square-foot East Side Community Garden where Partida works with multiple organic garden plots where gardeners can take organic produce home for meals was initiated by a group of seniors who are assisted by volunteers and neighbors as part of the college classroom series known as Jessica's Project http://alamo.edu/spc/jessicasproject/. In addition to increasing food resources for local seniors on fixed incomes in the food desert of East Side San Antonio, the college has found opportunities to alter the desert a bit, giving back and helping to improve the nutritional value of the up-and-coming organic garden.

Dec. 1 was Partida's final day in the organic garden as a student. The students she worked among recently planted vegetables that will be ready to harvest in spring. Their labor on Dec. 1---final activity for 2017---consisted of learning, mulching and cleaning with the assistance of master gardeners and such faculty members as White.

The garden is in her future, as an alumna, Partida shared.

"I asked Ms. White if I could work in the garden after I graduate," she said.

"I told her yes, but it's without the scholarship, and as an alumna. She is fine with that," White said with a knowing smile, knowing she is likely to see Partida walk the stage on a graduation night that was delayed for 30 years, but worth the wait and the effort.

The St. Philip's College 138th commencement ceremony is Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. in Freeman Coliseum at 3201 E. Houston St., with 600 students in caps and gowns who, like Partida, have been on amazing journeys en route to obtaining degrees and certificates from more than 160 fields of study. All are welcome to attend the event. For details on the Dec. 15 ceremony, visit the college graduation page at http://alamo.edu/spc/graduation/, email the college record and registration team at spc-gradadv@alamo.edu or contact Tracy Shelton, the college’s associate director of records and registration, at 210-486-2700, tshelton@alamo.edu.

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