Austin Community College District (ACC) honors our students’ incredible achievements at the upcoming Spring 2024 Commencement. More than 3,000 are invited to the ceremony at 4 p.m. Friday, May 17, at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. 

We asked some of our students graduating this spring to share their journeys with us. Read their stories below, which have been edited for brevity.

Clarence Watson | Transforming Into My Superhero

Clarence Watson will earn his associate degree in Social Work. The 50-year-old father enrolled at ACC in fall 2016 after speaking with an administrator who told him he belonged at the college. Clarence overcame numerous obstacles, including being previously incarcerated, homeless, and impoverished. He also is a part-time Career Workforce Trainer for Student Impact & Outcomes. In this role, he provides invaluable guidance to students affected by the judicial system, aiding them in building essential career readiness skills and matching them to ACC career pathways. Read his full story and what Pamela Fant-Saez, Student Impact & Outcomes Director, says about him here.

Why did you choose ACC? Affordability, Convenience, Community

How does it feel to be graduating? I am excited, it’s part of my transformation into becoming my own Superhero.

What was your favorite part of ACC? The bonds I have formed with staff and students.

Any faculty or staff you want to recognize supporting you? 

  • Professor Roland Hayes 
  • Professor Julie Reck
  • Dr. Blanca Alvarado 
  • De’borah Jones-Pool
  • Darrell Merriweather

What is next for you? Concordia or Texas State. I would like to receive my master’s in social work.

Megan Trahan | Reassurance and Ability to Succeed

Megan Trahan will be completing her associate degree in Marketing. She originally started at ACC in 2004 but started this degree path in spring 2022. The 41-year-old says it was the accessibility of ACC that allowed her to get to this day. Read her full story here.

How does it feel to be graduating? I am beyond enthusiastic, grateful, and proud.

What was your favorite part of ACC? The reassurance and ability to succeed, tutoring availability.

Any faculty or staff you want to recognize supporting you? All my professors really. I know I emailed all of them continuously and always received replies. My main professor would be Nicholas Sarantakes. I would also like to consider Jay Thibedoax, James Sondergrath, Richard Croxdale, Deborah Gilmore, and Gloria Evans.

What is next for you? I am currently pursuing my career goal as a Hospice Community Liaison Marketer with hopes of becoming a regional manager in the future.

Lorenzo Celli-Vargas | Motivated to Make a Difference

Lorenzo Celli-Vargas is a shining example of the transformative power of education. Lorenzo’s journey began in high school, where he took dual credit courses at ACC. His path led him to ACC through the college’s partnership with Capital IDEA, a program that offers personalized assistance and support to eligible students. Read his full story here.

My name is Lorenzo Celli-Vargas. I am in level four of Austin Community College’s Associate Degree Nursing Program and set to graduate this May. I was born and raised in Austin, and I’m proud to call myself an ACC nursing student. Being a nurse has been my dream since high school. My passion for health and wellness and the drive to care for others is what motivated me to pursue this career. I am so happy to finally be taking the next step in making my dream come true, and I am grateful for the education I received at ACC.

During my time at ACC, I served as a student representative for the nursing curriculum committee and participated in the Associate Degree Nursing Student Association (ADNSA), which I had the honor to lead as its president this past year. These experiences allowed me to hone my leadership and communication skills, which I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I worked closely with ACC faculty and my fellow students across all three nursing campuses and made a difference in my local community by leading and participating in community service projects. It’s been an honor serving ACC nursing students and the local community, and I’m eager to continue doing so in and out of my profession.

Thank you to my parents for loving me through thick and thin and always being there for me. Thank you to my classmates, whom I now call friends, for having my back in tough times. Thank you to the wonderful professors I had who always believed in my success. Thank you to Capital IDEA for making my dream come true. And one last thank you to Sydney Pruitt for allowing me to share my story with you! 

Sapphire Hunter | From Early College High School to Northwestern University

Sapphire Hunter is a student at Manor Early College High School. She will earn her high school diploma and associate degree this spring. Read her full story here

Throughout all four years of high school, I have been an active student. I served as a National Honor Society parliamentarian for two years and participated actively in organizations, such as the Coding School and Code2College, engaging in numerous volunteering projects and activities. Furthermore, I have been a four-year varsity cheerleader and a three-time All-American Universal Cheerleaders Association nominee.

Upon graduation, I plan to attend Northwestern University, where I will study Computer Science at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. This summer, I will be a Software Engineer intern at YETI. I aspire to utilize my talents to mentor young girls in the STEM field, progressing from obtaining a bachelor of science to a master’s degree and eventually pursuing a law degree specializing in intellectual property. My goal is to trailblaze as a software or computer engineer and a legal attorney dedicated to protecting users and companies as technology advances. I envision being a part of spaces such as Formula One or prominent companies, contributing my expertise, and making a meaningful impact in these dynamic environments.

I would like to acknowledge Meaghan Pike-Dean for not only enhancing my writing skills and preparing me for my future advanced English classes but also for helping me succeed in crafting compelling college admission essays. She made the classroom welcoming, fun, and was extremely supportive of all her students! 

Sheila Jones | Felt Like Part of a Big Family

In her own words: I am a 33-year-old African-American neurodivergent mom of one daughter, Luna Rae, who was able to begin pursuing my degree during the pandemic. I am originally from Memphis, Tennessee, and I moved to Austin to continue my education and raise my daughter in a safer city. I pursued the Associate of Science in Real Estate because I am working toward a career in Commercial Appraisal. I have completed the training courses necessary for the State of Texas to be considered an Appraisal Trainee, and looking forward to transferring. Read her full story here.

Tell me about your time at ACC? Very rewarding; lots of opportunities to stay connected to instructors, peers, and campus happenings. 

Why was ACC the right choice for you? Asynchronous classes were ideal while raising a young child and really support student health and wellness in addition to education.

How does it feel to be graduating? Rewarding. I’m glad my 5-year-old daughter will witness it. 

What was your favorite part of ACC? Feeling like an essential part of a large family. There is so much support from students and teachers alike. It’s inspiring to be in a place where everyone means business, yet in the most casual and inviting way. 

Any faculty or staff you want to recognize supporting you? Advocate Amber Huffman, Professor Kyle Smith, Professor Kristopher Marcus, Professor Scott Goyette, Professor Stacia Ashmore, Staff Member Jason Brown, Professor Louisa Spaventa, Professor Job Hammond, and Professor James Haecker

What is next for you? A bachelor’s degree in the University of Texas-Austin’s Urban Studies program, if they’ll have me.

Erin Loftus | The First Step is Always the Hardest

After starting at ACC in 2022, Erin Loftus will complete an associate degree in Anthropology. Learn more about her journey and plans to transfer to continue her education at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Read her full story here

Why did you choose ACC? Affordability, location, and friendly staff. 

How does it feel to be graduating? I’m blessed to graduate. I’m super excited for the next phase of my academic career. 

What was your favorite part of ACC? My favorite parts about ACC were the amazing professors I had, the amazing students I got to meet and study with, and the amazing campus and resources they provide. I love the online library and writing workshops ACC offers. 

Any faculty or staff you want to recognize supporting you? Professor Wendy Lym is the BEST! I wish I could take her with me to grad school!

What is next for you? I’m going to complete my bachelor’s in Anthropology at the University of Texas-San Antonio and apply to law schools this upcoming year.