by KIM HILSENBECK
Austin Community College’s “We are ACC” motto rang true at the groundbreaking of the Hays campus as a Hays High graduate told her emotional story about what the college did for her.
Probably the most powerful speaker of the day, Dr. Christina Sheely is an orthopedic surgeon and ACC alumna. Sheely spoke poignantly of her path from high school to doctor.
“I went to Hays High School,” Sheely said. “When I was in Kyle, there was a DQ and that’s about it.”
Sheely recently moved back to the area to establish a medical practice. But at the podium, she shared her struggle to get through college, especially in the first year.
“I got a partial scholarship from the University of Texas at Austin,” Sheely said. “My dad was disabled when I was a teenager and my mom went back to work because she had to.”
With tears welling in her eyes Sheely recalled that time in her life, pausing when she choked up with her emotions.
Sheely described to the audience how she worked to help pay for her education but fell behind because of her job. She also described the lack of personal attention from professors on the UT campus with more than 40,000 students.
“I needed to go somewhere smaller and get the attention I needed,” Sheely said.
So from 1988 to 1990, Sheely attended ACC. She transferred to the University of North Texas and later graduated from medical school.
Wiping tears from her eyes, Sheely said her husband is now taking classes at ACC and her daughter attends ACC.
“So we are ACC,” Sheely concluded, a reference to the college’s motto ‘I am ACC’ seen on many blue T-shirts that day worn by volunteers.
Audience members were moved by Sheely’s stories and the tears flowed. The applause was thunderous.
Sheely’s story followed a long line of speakers who welcomed the groundbreaking. The event started as more than 200 attendees entered Hays CISD’s Performing Arts Center, glad for the 74 degree temperatures as the thermometer outside hit more than 100 degrees.
Diagonally across the intersection of Kohler’s Crossing and FM 1626, 12 shovels with blue hardhats waited in the dusty field that will become the ACC Hays campus.
But that part of the ceremony had to wait.
The Lehman High School Mariachi Los Lobos set the tone as they serenaded the incoming crowds. A welcoming song from the Fuentes Elementary School Star Choir was met with loud applause. And the Boy Scout Troop 128 presentation of colors gave the event the right touch of solemn patriotism.
ACC Board of Trustees Chair Barbara Mink welcomed the crowd with guest speakers sharing their stories about getting the college’s Hays campus off the ground.
They thanked volunteers who went door to door asking for voter support. When the 2010 election was held, 59 percent of the voters approved the tax increase in support of a Hays ACC branch.
At the conclusion of the speeches, two air-conditioned buses shuttled about 50 guests to the site of the future home of ACC Hays.
ACC President and CEO Richard Rhodes, along with Mink, pulled a blue tarp from a 12-foot-high sign annoucing the ACC location.
Then 12 people instrumental in bringing ACC Hays to town moved to the shovels and put on the blue hard hats with the ACC logo on front.
The group, including ACC board members, several Hays CISD Trustees, and officials from the cities of Kyle and Buda, officially broke ground.
Dick Schneider, retired Buda Chamber of Commerce president, said earlier in the celebration, “Our future is here and now.”
ACC Hays is expected to open in the spring of 2014. Meanwhile, all Hays County residents currently qualify for the same tuition rates as Travis County residents and can attend the college at its various campuses in Austin.
- ACC campus ready to break ground 01/19/2012
- Foe of ACC Hays campus appeals to state Supreme Court 12/8/2011
- ACC to spend $45 million on Hays campus 04/4/2012