Austin Community College District (ACC) celebrates more than 3,500 graduates at its fall 2022 commencement ceremony. Friends and family are invited to congratulate students Thursday, December 8, at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.

Read the stories of some of our accomplished graduates below and find out who they would like to recognize for their support.

Batool Abbasi (2022 CSAA Winner)

Batool Abbasi is the fall 2022 Chancellor’s Student Achievement Award recipient.

Tell us about your time at ACC.
I am different from the typical ACC student — but, knowing the ACC community, that can be said about each and every one of us. I am actually a college graduate, having graduated from the University of Texas — Austin in 2020 with a B.A. in Mathematics and Islamic Studies. After working in sales and feeling disinterested in the work I was doing, I quit my job and decided to enroll at ACC to “try out” psychology classes.

A short year later, I work at a daycare center (a job I absolutely love) and have completed an internship and a research-ship. I am about to graduate with an associate in Psychology, and I am applying to graduate schools to get my master’s in Mental Health Counseling. When I first entered the work field two years ago in the middle of the pandemic, I felt that all my best opportunities were behind me. But, here I stand today — a proud Riverbat, completing the most professionally rewarding year of my entire career, applying to my dream schools in a field I hadn’t even taken a single course in up until a year ago.

What was your favorite part of ACC?
The educational stimulation. Many young people who are post-college can relate to the lack of challenging perspectives and enriching knowledge that can affect us. We have been taught new concepts in multiple subjects every week since the age of 5 years old. Suddenly letting go of this educational enterprise can feel so stagnating. Every person, no matter their age or education, should keep enrolling in community college courses every semester. You will always have something new to learn!

Any faculty or staff you want to recognize supporting you?
Dr. Shirin Khosropour. She was my professor for my Intro to Psychology class. She taught me so much about the role of psychology in guiding global conflicts and initiating peace and also opened my eyes to the ample opportunities available to me! Through her, I got my first internship at the Refugee Services of Texas, and she recommended me for a life-changing research opportunity at UT!

What is next for you?
I am currently applying to masters in Mental Health Counselling programs in schools across the country. My eventual goal is to become a licensed therapist and help people from all walks of life and backgrounds find a comfortable space to model their best selves! I am guided by the intimate knowledge of the self. We all become a self in response to situations, dynamics, and pressures imposed on us. Many of us develop a self-prepared for conflict and act out in a combative, defeating manner even when it is maladaptive. Therapy is a space where the self forms in relation to itself, fostered by an understanding environment. I want to assist people in discovering the goals and ideals they have for themselves and achieving those standards by means of practice, reflection, and action.

Bertha Juarez

Bertha Juarez completed her degree in Vocational Nursing through the support of Capital Idea. 

Tell us about your time at ACC.
My time at ACC has been a journey. I started attending ACC in 2013. I have worked for my Associate in Health Science and got my diploma in 2019. Now, I am about to finish the Vocational Nursing program.

What was your favorite part of ACC?
My favorite part of ACC was meeting the professors that helped me along the way and the amazing help that ACC offered through Student life. Just the feeling of knowing I was going to school for a good purpose for me.

Any faculty or staff you want to recognize supporting you?
I want to recognize all the professors at the Vocational Nursing program for pushing me to my limits and my gratitude to you for all they have done, which I will never forget. I truly appreciate you and the time you spent helping me on many occasions. Thank you very much for the program. I enjoyed every minute of your lectures as well as your marvelous sense of humor.

What is next for you?
I want to continue my education. I am looking to apply for the ADN program at ACC soon. I also want to start working and applying my skills.

Demetria Clayton

Demetria Clayton plans to transfer to Texas State University to continue her education in either Business or Psychology.

Tell us about your time at ACC.
My journey here at ACC has afforded me great support and has given me encouragement not to falter under societal pressures of thinking you have to be of a certain age to pursue furthering your education. 

Coming back to school years after graduating high school was intimidating. However, through strong determination, I would not let myself back down. I knew I had a son who was watching everything that I did. It’s one thing to tell your child something, but it is the actions that follow that matter the most. As a teen mom, I knew my actions, directly and indirectly, would affect my son’s outlook on life. I hope to have set the example for my son and many others that no matter what adversities or setbacks you faced or how much time has passed, it’s never too late to pursue higher education or your personal goals. 

What was your favorite part of ACC?
My favorite part of attending ACC is the community. When you walk the halls going to and from classes, you pass countless faces that are on a shared journey with you — whether it’s your fellow colleagues you had the fortunate experience of taking a class with, having a study group with, or striking up a friendly conversation. ACC has always been a welcoming experience.

Any faculty or staff you want to recognize supporting you?
I would like to thank all the staff and faculty for your amazing support. The professors do such an outstanding job. I appreciate your passion and commitment to teaching us knowledge that will last a lifetime.

I would also like to give special recognition to English Professor Prabha Murthy. Professor Murthy was my English I and II instructor, and I would like to thank you for strengthening my literary prowess. Your strict instruction kept me disciplined in my studies, and your wonderful teachings kept me yearning to learn all I could. Your feedback kept me striving, and it challenged me not to do just good but exceptional. You made a tremendous impact on me that will stay for a lifetime. I will never forget you and your amazing contributions to my education. 

Juan Avalos

Juan Avalos is graduating with an  A.A.S. in Film & Emerging Media Production from the Radio-Television-Film (RTF) Department.

What was your favorite part about ACC?
My favorite part about ACC has been the community I was fortunate to foster. I have made some lifelong friendships and had an incredibly supportive network while at ACC that played a huge part in my success.

Any faculty and/or staff you want to recognize for supporting you?
There are simply too many individuals that I could write you a book about how much they supported me throughout my time at ACC. If I had to condense it to five people, in no particular order, it would be Christian Raymond, RTF department chair; Carrye Glazar, ACCTV executive producer/director; Laura DiMeo, RTF instruction associate & adjunct professor; and RTF associate professors John Moore and Caleb Johnson. These individuals have provided an incredible amount of support and mentorship throughout my time at ACC. Their guidance, leadership, and willingness to push me out of my comfort zone have been invaluable to my growth as a person and as a storyteller.

What’s next for you?
Post-graduation, I will continue my internship with ACCTV and learn as much as possible from my incredibly talented coworkers. I hope that my internship leads me to a full-time role as a video producer with a production company. Additionally, I will continue to produce short/feature films and expand my network within the ever-growing and captivating Austin film industry.

Rizwana Najam Khan

Rizwana Najam Khan completed her degree in the Pharmacy Technician program.

Tell us about your time at ACC.
My name is Rizwana Najam Khan. I am graduating from ACC with an associate degree from the Pharmacy Technician Program. It has been an honor and privilege to be a part of such a prestigious institution. 

During my time at ACC, I not only worked hard to achieve my degree, but I had an opportunity to groom myself as a professional. I took speech, communication, and computing courses which prepared me to work in technical job settings. 

I was also a member of Phi Theta Kappa society and the National Society of Leadership and Success. They gave me a chance to enhance my leadership skills and contribute to my institution in a productive manner.

I had a degree in biochemistry from a foreign country, but it was not enough to start a career in the U.S. That’s why I started looking for career options. I decided to resume my studies and got admission to the Pharmacy Technician Program at ACC after completing the prerequisites. 

ACC and my teachers have played a very significant role in my success. The college gave me a chance to prove my capabilities and restored my confidence. My teachers have encouraged me at every step, and I am very grateful for their continuous support.

I have worked very hard to achieve my goals, and at the same time, I am raising my kids so that they become useful and responsible members of the community.

Adriana Calixto

Adriana Calixto completed her associate degree in Education, completely online, with plans to become an educator. 

Tell us about your time at ACC.
I am 23 years old and a mom of two boys. My oldest is 4 years old, and my youngest is 7 months old. When I was 18, I got pregnant in the middle of my senior year.

I remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, you really just did it now, huh? You got pregnant in high school.’ I was so hard on myself and convinced myself that I was never going to succeed. I did not envision a happy life.

Despite the negative thoughts, I pushed myself above my comfort level. I kept my pregnancy a secret, went on with my everyday routine, going to dance practice, and being the leader I had to be. I competed in Hawaii for nationals and was able to finish my dance journey. One week before graduation, I announced my pregnancy.

When I look back at that journey, I realize how ignorant I was. I really thought I would amount to nothing, that I would never be able to go to college and start a new life.

Because of ACC, I was able to create this new life for myself. I was a single mom, terrified of starting college. Not only was it the peak of COVID-19, but it was also the darkest point of my life. I was so alone.

When I started in summer 2020, I took EDUC 1300 with Dr. Lillian Huerta. After explaining my struggles, she recommended I take ACC counseling. She submitted a referral, and I got the help I needed. From then on, I told myself I could do anything. She really sparked something in me I had not had in a very long time.

As I got closer to graduating, I saw how much I’d grown. I got married, had another baby during this recent spring semester, and started this wonderful job in special education. My teaching internship is coming up right after graduation, so I am very close to being in a classroom.

I will forever be so incredibly grateful for ACC. I have met so many amazing professors as well as students who have made this such a memorable experience. I could not have done this without their support. I tear up just thinking about how far I’ve come.

Read the full interviews in the ACC Newsroom.