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.

Climbing the College Ladder

Two Austin Community College Alumni from different walks of life, share their stories in hopes to change the stigma of junior colleges.

Written, Photo & Video by Marissa Greene

Once one has come to the point of receiving their high school diploma or completing their GED, what’s next? Well, that may look different for some people. It could be taking a gap year, entering the workforce or attending a college.

“Not going to college was never an option,” says ACC Alumni Network Council President, Lynn Kindler. Like many, Kindler was encouraged to take, at least, one year at ACC by her father. So, she began her educational journey in 1980 at the Rio Grande campus.

Decades later, a first-generation student, Jose Sosa, began his college education at ACC in 2002. “It was a big challenge, to be honest,” he says. “I never thought I would be able to accomplish my associate’s degree.”

Sosa was able to further his education through ESL and math classes to better his GPA at ACC before transferring to a four-year university.

Many pursue community college to make the transfer to a four-year college. However, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, this past fall approximately 13.3 million first-year students enrolled in a four-year university, while 6.7 million students attended a two-year college. That’s nearly twice as many students paying more for the basic courses. What causes this gap – is there a stigma related to attending a community college?

“I had a lot of shame going on…it’s like everybody knew I was going to a community college instead of UT or St. Edwards,” says Kindler. “But I knew I was getting the education I needed because the classrooms were smaller and I was getting the attention I needed from the professors.”

As some may feel a lack of clout at a community college, others feel the stress of juggling daily tasks.

“I had to meet deadlines, go to work, study for my tests, and travel between campuses because I didn’t have transportation at the time,” Sosa says.

Prioritizing these tasks can be difficult for some. ACC works to create a variety of resources provided to its enrolled students, from financial readiness with Student Money Management to goal setting with academic coaches to networking with the Alumni Council.

“I was very disciplined to take my tests,” Sosa says as he took advantage of ACC resources in order to comb through all that he had to accomplish. Once he completed his associate’s, he wasn’t done just quite yet. Sosa took it to the next level by attending Texas State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2013.

“I truly believe in education, it is very important,” Sosa says. “It can open so many doors professionally in so many ways.”

After looking back at all of her accomplishments and her start at ACC, Kindler recommends trying a two-year college before anything else. “It has taken a progression of many years for me to get to the place where it’s not a shame thing to go to community college. In fact, as a career coach…if you don’t know exactly what you want to do and where to get it, why wouldn’t you go to a community college to get the first two years knocked out?”

Kindler completed so many of her classes at ACC that she only had to earn 30 credit hours after transferring to UT. She claims to have a passion for helping others, “when I’m working with somebody and they’re really struggling with something or looking at something in their life, I can help them unlock the knowledge and gifts that they already had in them and wow that’s awesome.”

As members of the ACC Alumni Network Council, Kindler and Sosa show thanks to ACC for being their first steps to where they are today.

“I would like to give back to all that ACC has given me,” Sosa says. “What I tell students is that when I came to ACC I was not very fluent in the language. So if I could do it anybody else could do it.”

Whether you are looking to go back to school or beginning your first semester of community college, think about Jose Sosa and think about Lynn Kindler and think to yourself if community college is really all that bad?

Jose Sosa is a Lead Safety Coordinator at Workers Defence Project and owner of Sosa Income Tax and Adela’s Cleaning Services. He also earned OSHA Safety Certification to educate construction workers and nonprofit organizations about safety in the workplace.

After college, Lynn Kindler had a variety of careers such as an Executive Assistant to the Publisher of Texas Monthly, a mentor coach, Producer and host for Blog Talk radio, a career coach, amongst many others.