CTN hosted a Virtual Fall Gala on October 21st from 6-7 pm. The gala was hosted by Stacy Ybarra, CTN Director of Digital Engagements and Fundraising, and CTN CEO, Dr. Maria Chavez who began with an official kick-off to the 10th academic year of the Ascender program, a welcome and thanks to the “CTN team members and students who have created the organization that we currently have. We are the product of the creativity and passion of our members, Chavez said. She added that “we are celebrating the accomplishments of the program including the EDGE award, the Excelencia recognition, the alumni, and our roots.” She thanked those that sponsor us.  

Chavez was followed by words from Dr. Robert Garza, President of Palo Alto College. He shared his educational journey which included his father and grandfather starting college with him. His message to donors and sponsors was “it’s important that you know that your support is helping to change lives. And I’m not talking about one life, but generations to come. Your dollars pay dividends, generation after generation. It’s about transformational change. It’s been a successful journey (with CTN) all the way through. Dr. Chavez has done an amazing job of leading us. He thanked those at CTN who have been living a life of service, and said, “Keep moving.  We truly need every student to be successful.”      

Stacy Ybarra then introduced the next part of the program which were the student testimonials. Participants heard from Palo Alto College alumni- Juan Higa, Priscilla Lares, Blanca Paredes, Lizette Perales, and Alexa Ortiz; Austin Community College alumni-Diana Gorostieta, Armando Sanchez, and Cloe Llanos; San Antonio College student Sophia Farias; South Texas College alumni Farah Guerrero and Jesus Morales. Sophia Farias also read one of her poems for participants.         

Texas Poet Laureate 2020, Emmy Pérez was then introduced by Dr. Chavez. Perez offered “Congratulations on 10 years of excellence and especially I want to share my gratitude with Maria Martha Chavez who is an amazing leader, an amazing dynamo. She then shared a poem with participants which began “They speak of capacity…”

Next participants heard testimonials from faculty and staff including from PAC- Stacy Ybarra, Juan Tejeda, Dr. Dan Rodriguez, Dr. Raphael Castillo, and Diane Lerma; from STC -Dr. Anna Alaniz; from ACC- Anne Fletcher and Alejandra Polcik; and from SAC- Dr. Joan Jaimes and Yon Hui Bell.

Poet Fernando Esteban Flores shared a poem from a manuscript called Song from America, poem #57 “For the Ancestors.”

Dr. Chavez thanked everyone for joining the gala. “We are here because of you and all you have done for our students.” The program ended with traditional conjunto music with button accordion and bajo sexto by Juan and Armando Tejeda.

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