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Education

More Space, More Classes Coming To Alamo Colleges’ West Side Center

Medical assistant students Dorothy Roque and Alexandria Salgado grab breakfast tacos at the Westside Education and Training Center before the  Alamo Colleges presents its expansion plans Aug. 30, 2018.
Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
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Medical assistant students Dorothy Roque and Alexandria Salgado grab breakfast tacos at the Westside Education and Training Center before the Alamo Colleges presents its expansion plans.

The Alamo Colleges will soon start construction on a new education center on San Antonio’s West Side, near Highway 90 and Loop 410, doubling its size and increasing access to higher education for area residents.

The goal of the expansion is to fill a gap in the Alamo Colleges’ locations. The West Side has two private four-year universities, but no community college.

“We are between three of our colleges — 15 miles, 15 minutes each way,” said Gene Gonzalez, who has managed the Alamo Colleges’ Westside Education and Training Center since it opened in the Edgewood school district in 2006.

Without the center, Gonzalez said, many students wouldn’t be able to attend classes because of transportation limitations and family obligations.

“In many instances they are sharing rides, they don’t have exclusive use of that car. Many of our students are dropped off. They’re picked up. They share rides. Many of them use VIA — take the bus,” Gonzalez said.

The location is convenient for medical assistant students Erick Pantaleon, Alexandria Salgado and Dorothy Roque, who all live in the neighborhood.

The students said the center's free medical assistant program is a supportive environment that helps them learn.

“Not everybody is willing to go ahead and help someone who is — how can I say — of restricted means. … They would be so quick to judge you,” said Salgado, adding that it means a lot for her teachers to believe in her.

Alamo Colleges' current Westside Education and Training Center is one large room surrounded by classrooms.
Credit Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
Alamo Colleges' current Westside Education and Training Center is one large room surrounded by classrooms.

Students who qualify for the income requirements receive their certification and supplies through a federal Health Professions Opportunity Grant, but right now limited space at the Westside Center requires qualified applicants to be chosen through a lottery.

According to Alamo spokesperson Kay Hendricks, when the center is expanded it will be able to offer more students space in the program.

Right now, the center offers GED classes, English lessons, job certifications and some classes that transfer to the Alamo Colleges. But once the expansion is complete, Gonzalez said it will be able to offer enough courses for students to earn an associate’s degree at one of the colleges.

“We’ll double the capacity, and therefore we’ll be able to double the programming. We’ll also be able to do dual credit courses,” Gonzalez said.

The new center is being paid for with $23 million from the bond voters approved last year, Hendricks said.

Gonzalez said the new building is slated to be complete sometime in 2020.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille