Working together

Christal Albrecht, left, president of ACC, and Carol Nelson, superintendent of Alvin ISD, talk about the state of education during the Alvin-Manvel Chamber luncheon. The two women said cooperation between ACC and Alvin ISD is beneficial to both entities.

As both Alvin ISD and Alvin Community College reported a record number of students, the two organizations agree a spirit of cooperation is vital.

Carol Nelson, superintendent of Alvin ISD, and Christal Albrecht, president of ACC, said the district and the college are working together at levels not seen before.

Albrecht said the college and the school district are working together to accomplish the state’s 60-30 plan. Under that plan, 6o percent of 25 to 34 year olds will earn a college degree or certificate by 2030.

To reach that goal, community colleges are vital because they can offer classes that lead directly to careers. By working with Alvin ISD, at the JB Hensler Academy and Shadow Creek High School, ACC has been able to reach more and more people. Most are working toward certificates in programs like culinary arts, nursing or welding.

Right now, the key for both entities in accomplishing the goal is the JB Hensler Academy. Opened by Alvin ISD in 2017, the Hensler Academy helps Alvin ISD teach career pathways to students during the day. At night, ACC takes over and continues the lessons.

Nelson said the Hensler Academy allows Alvin ISD to teach 15 of the 16 career pathways to 800 students at the Hensler while close to 5,000 more high school students CTE take classes at the three high schools.

“We’re always looking for what the industries need,” Nelson said. “Getting our students into the program and getting them jobs or bridging them to ACC is our job.”

Both schools are finding the importance of what they do growing with record enrollment in 2019. At ACC, enrollment topped 6,000 students for the first time at 15 locations. In Alvin ISD, enrollment topped 27,000 students at the beginning of the year, an increase of more than 1,000 students just over the summer.

“We have a lot of growth and students coming in every day,” Nelson said. “With growth, we do have some challenges.”

Albrecht said the challenge at ACC is not to get students enrolled but to get them to graduate.

“Our job is not to provide access, but it’s to help them complete,” she said. “We’re trying to make it easy. It shouldn’t be hard to get into school and through school.”

ACC recently celebrated in 70th anniversary and Albrecht celebrated her fifth anniversary leading the school. Albrecht said the biggest accomplishment as president was heling create and implement the college’s strategic plan.

“We’re now heading into the fourth year of our strategic plan, and we’ve accomplished a lot,” she said. “Next year, we’ll do it all over again.”

While Albrecht said much has been accomplished, on the downside she recalled two bond elections turned down by voters. That led to the ACC board voting to spend $25 million in tax notes, primarily on infrastructure projects.

“A lot of things in the maintenance tax note people won’t really see,” Albrecht said. “There’s a lot of infrastructure — heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical.”

But there are two projects that will be noticed and will help the college. The Nolan Ryan Center will be expanded and rebuilt. When finished, it will become the home of ACC’s culinary arts program.

The cafeteria and bookstore in the middle of campus will also be renovated.

While Albrecht is entering her fifth year leading ACC, Nelson is just starting her tenure at Alvin ISD. She was hired as superintendent earlier this year.

“By being in education, you effect the future,” she said. “You impact it through the students you serve and also the families. In education, we make a difference in our communities. To build a better community, you have to build better schools.”

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