Program to help adults finish college degrees will also strengthen SA workforce

Upgrade San Antonio helps adults with counseling, financial aid, courses

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Approximately 300,000 adults in San Antonio have started college but never finished and got their degree. A new initiative has been created to help those people achieve their goals, while strengthening the San Antonio workforce.

Tina Flores has always dreamed of an important life.

"I come from a broken home. I just wanted to do something different," she said. "My friend lived in the Baptist Children's Home, and they let me come live there."

That's where Flores found out the importance of education. By the time she got a job as an office assistant for the city of San Antonio, she had about 25 hours of college credit. But it wasn't quite enough to move up the ranks and better support her family.

"I've been taking classes now for about 14 years," she said.

Next month, Flores will graduate from St. Mary's School of Law with a Master of Jurisprudence degree and a whole lot of pride.

Flores is setting the example for San Antonio's new Upgrade Program, which reintroduces adults to higher education.

"We need to invite them in, because so many times they feel like, 'I lost it. I gave it up. I'm too old,'" said Dr. Bruce Leslie, Alamo Colleges chancellor.

Leslie said people who didn't finish their degree should realize their worth.

"They've worked. They've been out there. They've raised kids. They've been through the troubles. They understand what it's like to be a responsible adult, and employers are really very anxious to have that population get the skills that they need and get them that degree and the new position," Leslie said.

In San Antonio, industries such as health care and technology are desperate to fill positions but can't because there are not enough qualified applicants. Industries such as automotive and aerospace manufacturing will need people with specific training to meet the changes in workforce requirements.

There is plenty of opportunity, and the Upgrade Program will link students to counseling, financial aid and course schedules. It also offers career fairs and connects new graduates to the perfect jobs.

The program is housed at CafeCollege and is operated by the San Antonio Education Partnership, a nonprofit organization.

Flores hopes others in her community will hear her success story and decide to take the leap.

"Don't let life get in the way, no matter what classes you're taking, no matter how much time you have to spend. Put the kids to bed early. Find a babysitter. Ask your employer for help. Take classes during lunch, whatever it takes. Make it happen. Only you can make it happen," Flores said.

Flores said her journey toward earning her degree has changed her and helped her realize her full potential.

"I'm confident, full of passion and commitment and tenacity, and an education has done that for me," Flores said.

For more information on the Upgrade Program, contact CafeCollege, which is located at 131 El Paso St., San Antonio, TX 78204. The phone number to call is 210-207-4528.

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