ACC Alumni Making a Mark in West Texas

Sarah Vasquez (right) interviews an ACC student for ACCENT while on campus when she attended the school in 2009. Photo taken by Karissa Rodriguez

By: Pete Ramirez

It’s not uncommon for a portion of students to find their way back to school at Austin Community College. Sarah Vaszquez enrolled at Texas State University immediately after graduating high school. Eight years later, she enrolled at ACC.  Now, Vasquez is a freelance journalist and photographer whose work can be found in the New York Times, Texas Tribune, Texas Highways Magazine and others. 

It is common for students, of any age, to start here in order to get there. After graduating high school, Vasquez became a student at Texas State University. About two years into her higher education journey, she decided the best thing for herself was to take a break from school. During her time away from school Vasquez began writing her own blog called So Many Bands, which covered the independent music scene in Austin. 

“I was interviewing anybody and everybody who would let me,” Vasquez said. “I was so shy, my brother would sometimes ask band members if I could interview them.” 

After a few years, Vasquez decided to step back into the world of academia as an ACC student. In her first semester, she was recruited to work for ACCENT’s newspaper, which had its last publication in 2014.  

“[ACCENT] gave me the space to learn everything I wanted to learn,” Vasquez said. “I learned photography, how to edit audio and work on video.”

While working for ACCENT, Vaszquez picked up as many assignments as she could to become the Campus Editor and, eventually, Assistant Editor. Vasquez credits ACCENT for giving her low-stakes opportunities to grow as a journalist.

Sarah Vasquez Photo 2 - Vasquez (right), in 2011, works in the ACCENT newsroom to pull together the latest edition.
Vasquez (right), in 2011, works in the ACCENT newsroom to pull together the latest edition.

“I feel like ACC legitimized my career,” Vasquez said.  “It opened so many doors for me and gave me confidence to come out of my shell.”

After graduating from ACC with her associate’s degree in journalism, Vasquez was selected to take part in the Poynter Institute’s fellowship for a semester which is one of the most recognized schools of journalism.

After completing her fellowship, Vasquez returned to Texas State University. She quickly fell into the fold at the student-run radio station, KTSW 89.9, where she continued to develop her journalism skills in an audio format.

“I don’t think I would’ve been as prepared for the work at the university level if it wasn’t for ACC,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas State in 2012 and decided to take a four-month internship with Marfa Public Radio. After growing up in the fast-paced Austin area, she found joy and calm in the slower-paced west Texas town. Half-way through the internship she began working at the Big Bend Sentinel part-time. After the internship ended, Vasquez was hired as a full-time staff member for the newspaper.

“I was the general assignments reporter [at the Sentinel], so I covered everything,” Vasquez said.

In 2016, after working for the Big Bend Sentinel for three years, Vasquez decided to go her own way and become a freelance journalist and photographer covering the west Texas area.

Vasquez’s photography and writing for the Texas Tribune during February’s winter storm was essential coverage for rural west Texas communities that are often overlooked.

Although her path to ACC was not straightforward, Vasquez’s story is a testament to the valuable opportunities and connections that can be made at ACC.

“[ACC] exceeded my expectations,” Vasquez said. “I had no idea I would go on this journey.”

Vasquez plans to continue her work as a freelance journalist and photographer in the west Texas region.

Alumni Highlight

Austin Community College produces some of the hardest-working, talented alumni in the world. ACCENT met with ACC alumni, Antonio Cueto, to learn more about their experience with the college.

By: Pete Ramirez

Meet Antonio Cueto

Cueto graduated with their degree in Psychology and Journalism in May 2020. They now work as a freelance journalist for NPR affiliates. Cueto has melded what they learned at ACC, such as photojournalism, into multidisciplinary art for galleries in Texas and in a new Austin-based streetwear brand named Civil Unrest

Watch our Q&A segment with Cueto

The ACC Experience From An Alumni Perspective


Q: What is your experience with ACC?

A: I went to ACC a semester after graduating high school. I had started to go to UTSA but it wasn’t working out.

I went to ACC because it was the best vehicle to explore different career paths and it was good school to feel comfortable in a smaller classroom setting.” 

“At the same time, it’s a really good vehicle to explore different interests and get support from professors and all the resources ACC provides.

My experience with ACC was fruitful. I started out as a psychology major but during my last semester I took a journalism class with Professor Paul Brown and it honestly changed me.

I took News Reporting I and the first assignment was to go to an event and write an article about it. Being in the field, interviewing different people, and structuring a story by what you get, felt like a rush and a calling.

I fell in love with it.

Q: Did ACC meet your expectations?

A: Yeah, definitely. I went to ACC because I knew it was the best option to learn about myself and in the end, I really found out what “my purpose” was.

Q: What was the best part about your time at ACC?

A: I think making all those connections that led me to bigger things. Especially working with Professor Paul Brown in general. He changed my life.

He’s a very passionate professor and he has so much experience. The way that he teaches about his profession is so contagious. It really makes you fall in love with journalism.

I started the ACC Star with him, which is the newspaper for the journalism department. I was the founding editor and that was super cool.

I think those are the best parts of ACC because it put me on a path toward the career that I wanted,.

Q: Were you involved with any other student organizations during your time at ACC?

A: Yeah, I was the Hispanic student senator for a year with student government. I was also the campus vice president for Riverside in Phi Theta Kappa for a semester and a member throughout my time at ACC.

Both organizations are pretty influential at ACC. Especially student government. Student government exists at ACC but not a lot of students know about it so it was interesting to be in an organization that has some power. I think it’s the most power that students can hold at ACC to change things and make policy.

Phi Theta Kappa was great too. They also helped me a lot with becoming a more responsible, motivated student.

They emphasize leadership a lot and that really gave me a lot of experience for leadership roles and confidence that I need in journalism.

Q: What would you say to someone who might be unsure about attending ACC?

A: If they have a clear path toward what they want to do, then go for it. ACC is great for students that aren’t sure of what they want to do.

It really opens up so many opportunities and helps you find whatever you’re missing to make that leap forward in your life or career.

Q: How has ACC changed your life?

A: It made me realize that life isn’t so linear. There is no structure or handbook that tells you, “this is what you’re supposed to do”. 

ACC taught me that life isn’t like that at all. Sometimes you’re in classes with people who are way into their careers and want to switch things up.

You don’t have to commit to one interest only, you can intertwine interests. You make up your own handbook.