"There are so many possibilities at ACC. You don't just have to pick one thing and go with it. It's flexible enough for you to be able to pursue what you're passionate about. No matter your financial or personal situation, ACC has the resources available to make an education possible."
Austin Community College District (ACC) student Ashley Silva didn't have a traditional path to college but wants her story to inspire those on the fence about getting started.
"I realized that I got in my own way. I set my own limitations. Once I was able to let those go, I was good. I hope that people who hear my speech during graduation see the challenges that I've been able to overcome. I hope it inspires others to overcome challenges in their life and to know what their potential is."
After looking into a few educational options, including psychology, pre-med, and nursing, Ashley will graduate this spring with an associate degree in Surgical Technology. She will join more than 2,800 other graduates for the college’s virtual commencement celebration 11 a.m., Saturday, May 15.
"It's kind of surreal. School has been such a constant thing in my life. I never thought I would graduate, let alone with honors, at the top of my class, and as the Chancellor Student Achievement Award winner. It is an emotional moment for me."
Ashley says she was a C student. She grew up in a non-traditional host family, won a battle with cancer before becoming a mother in her early 20s.
"My daughter was one of the main reasons that I wanted to go back to school. When she was just two, I became a single mother. For me, going to school was the only option. I had certificates but didn't have any other skill sets or something to fall back on to provide for her."
She enrolled at ACC in 2017. During her time at the college, Ashley took advantage of just about every free student support resource the college offered, including child care, financial aid, scholarships, and additional financial support through ACC's partnership with Capital Idea.
"All of those things made it possible to be where I am today. ACC provided me with an exceptional education and provided me with a way to survive financially. Being able to use these resources and the 14 scholarships I received, I was able to gain financial independence through ACC."
Thanks to this support, Ashley will graduate debt-free. She will start her career as a Surgical Technician with St. David’s Healthcare.
"I want to be able to help people, the way they helped me during my cancer treatments. It is a good feeling to bring hope to someone's life they might not have had prior. It brings me a lot of gratitude to have survived what I survived and also to be able to show support and compassion to other people who are suffering."
The educational journey isn't entirely done for Ashley. She plans to continue going to school and wants to earn a doctorate in health sciences.
For more information on ACC’s spring commencement celebration, visit austincc.edu/commencement.
To learn more about ACC's Health Sciences programs, visit austincc.edu/healthsciences. Registration is open now for summer classes.