‘It’s part of my transformation into my Superhero’ | Meet Spring 2024 Graduate Clarence W. 

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

When the Office of College Relations and Marketing reached out to identify a series of graduates, one in particular received continued praise and recommendations from faculty and staff for his drive and perseverance.

Clarence Watson will earn his associate degree in Social Work. The 50-year-old father enrolled at ACC in fall of 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.

Hear more about his journey below and what faculty and staff say about his inspiring journey.

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 masters in social work.

What would you tell someone considering applying for college? The first step is the hardest. You don’t have to be Great at the start, but you do have to start to be Great. 

What ACC Employees say:

Pamela Fant-Saez, Student Impact & Outcomes Director 

Despite facing significant challenges, Clarence has persevered and emerged as a pioneering figure within and beyond the ACC community. Graduating in May, Clarence completed his ACC degree in Social Work in December and is currently enhancing his skills by taking a Spanish class this semester. His commitment extends to his role as 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.

Clarence’s journey is one marked by profound transformation. Incarcerated as a youth after enduring the hardships of poverty alongside the violent landscape of south-central Los Angeles, he began to study and change the trajectory of his life while incarcerated. Juggling two full-time jobs, Clarence entered ACC after bumping into an administrator who convinced him he belonged at ACC.  

Beyond his academic pursuits, Clarence dedicates time to the African American Youth Harvest Foundation and assists Building Promises, a non-profit dedicated to aiding citizens transitioning from the judicial system. His involvement with the Re-Entry Self Sustainability Initiative (RESPI), funded by an Indeed grant, further exemplifies his commitment to community upliftment.

Clarence’s accolades are numerous and noteworthy. He was honored with a full scholarship to attend The 2023 Encampment, focusing on anti-racist education and leadership. He received the Survivor Leadership Award at the 2023 Community Violence Intervention Conference, recognizing his journey as a violent crime survivor and his contributions to the field. His efforts were integral to the launch of Austin’s first trauma recovery center (Harvest Trauma Recovery Center), garnering media recognition in November 2023. Most recently, Clarence was a speaker on the distinguished Workforce Reentry Bill Act panel that was hosted at ACC’s Make It Center with Senator Cornyn and was the only speaker, in addition to Senator Cornyn, interviewed by the Austin American Statesman (January 2024).

Observing Clarence’s trajectory and witnessing his passion for teaching has been an honor. As he continues to prepare RESPI grant students for successful workforce entry, Clarence discovered a passion for teaching and plans to pursue his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. His ultimate goal is to return to ACC as a Social Work professor, to continue to uplift students, and to contribute to the institution that played a pivotal role in his development.

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