Approximately 48 students and faculty from South Texas College’s three campuses attended a meet and greet via zoom on August 27. Angelica Cerda and the students from Pecan campus hosted the meeting. Students were welcomed and received an overview of the program. Faculty who attended include Juan Ramirez, Jonathan Bell, Mario Morin, Anna Alaniz, Daniel Perez, Rosa Gutierrez, and Esmeralda Macias. Ascender program director, Chris Nelson also attended the meeting.

CTN CEO, Dr. Maria Chavez, spoke about the Ascender program and her background, both educational and personal. She told the students, “You have an Ascender familia that cares about you and wants you to succeed. In the Ascender program, we intentionally focus on showing cariño.  We think that in these difficult times more than ever with the pandemic, the storms and social unrest, that you should know that our unity is our strength.  La union es nuestra fuerza.”   

Dr. Chavez presented plaques to Angelica Cerda, Anna Alaniz and Esmeralda Macias who have each served as their Ascender campus coordinator since 2013.   They were recognized for their service with the Trailblazer Award which is inscribed with this quote by Cesar Chavez- “”To make a great dream come true the first requirement is a great capacity to dream; the second is persistence.” Dr. Chavez also presented a plaque to South Texas College President, Dr. Shirley A. Reed, who received the Luminary Award inscribed with the following: “Alone the Luminaria can be fragile; its soft light faintly glowing from a delicate paper lantern, but together with other Luminaries these torches lead the way. They become beacons illuminating a pathway; each doing their part to light a Journey.”

Bios for Trailblazer Award Recipients

Esmeralda Macias

Esmeralda Macias is an English Instructor at South Texas College, and she has been part of the STC family for the past ten years. Esmeralda believes that each student is a unique individual who needs to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. She has Master of Arts in Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Texas-Pan American, Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas-Pan American, and an Associates of Arts in the Interdisciplinary Studies from South Texas College. Most recently, Esmeralda received the South Texas College Faculty SpotLight Award for her excellent writing strategies, and she received a nomination for Faculty of the Year Award. In addition, she was recognized by Catch the Next and received the Leadership and Service Award for her leadership and dedication to the Catch the Next, Program. Esmeralda is passionate about programs that help student succeed; therefore, she was excited to earn the Professional Development Certificate (PDC) from the Puente Summer Institute (PSI) from the University of California at Berkeley, where she committed herself to support students in an intensive yearlong Integrated Reading and Writing Program. In 2017, Esmeralda received the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) award for her excellence in teaching. She is also part of the Development Curriculum Board and was part of the Developmental Education Initiative (DEI) Program, which was a three-year effort to identify and develop programs that increase the number of community college students who complete preparatory classes and successfully move on to college-level studies. As part of her ongoing effort to help students develop their education and life skills, she is excited to be part of the Catch the Next, Organization for the past years. She has presented at several conferences including the Catch the Next (CTN); Texas Community 18 College Teachers Association (TCCTA); College Academic Support Programs (CASP); Texas Success Initiative (TSI) Professional Development Program.

Anna Alaniz

Anna Bertha Alaniz earned a doctorate from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in Reading from the University of Texas Pan-American (now University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), and her bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis on Bilingual/Bicultural Education from the University of Texas Pan-American (now University of Texas Rio Grande Valley). Dr. Alaniz currently serves as the ASCENDER Coordinator at South Texas College. She also teaches all components of the ASCENDER program. She is currently a full-time Developmental Reading Instructor, and adjuncts for the Education department and the English department. She adjuncts in the Teacher Bilingual Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville where she teaches Foundation of Literacy and Assessment and Remediation in Reading. Dr. Alaniz taught in public education at Roma ISD. She has taught adult literacy courses with Roma ISD. Dr. Alaniz’s passion is helping underserved students persist and graduate from college. Her dissertation is titled, Beating the Odds-Perceptions of Successful Former Developmental College Students.”

Angelica Cerda

Angelica Cerda grew up as the eldest in a family of five in the border town of McAllen, TX. She comes from a family of migrant farmers who worked hard to pave the way for a better and brighter future for future generations. Both of her parents were high school dropouts, but the value of a college education was always instilled in her family. Out of the five siblings, four have earned college degrees.

Cerda earned a bachelor’s degree in English from The University of Texas-Pan American in 2007. She also earned a master’s degree in English with a concentration in rhetoric and composition in 2009, graduating under two national honor societies, Sigma Tau Delta and Golden Key. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in educational leadership from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. She anticipates beginning her dissertation writing during the 2021 spring semester. She was inducted as a member of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi with a 4.0 G.P.A. in 2019.

Cerda has been an English Instructor at South Texas College for the past 11 years. She teaches developmental and academic English, and contextualized reading and writing courses.  She has 10 years of teaching experience within the online and hybrid format. Cerda regularly presents at conferences within her discipline, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, travelling to conferences has been put on hold. She completed the Ambassadors Leadership Academy at South Texas College in 2017. She also received the Distinguished Teaching and Learning award in 2018.  She has been the Ascender Program coordinator at the Pecan Campus in McAllen, TX for the last 8 years. Her favorite part about being a part of this program is seeing her students unite, become a family, and successfully graduate from college.

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