Guest Column

Victoria College committed to Gonzales center success


Victoria College is excited to have entered its second decade of partnership with the City of Gonzales to operate VC’s Gonzales Center. The support Victoria College has received the last 11 years from the City, Gonzales Economic Development Corporation, Gonzales ISD, community leaders, business and industry partners and the people of Gonzales County has been inspiring to our board, administration, faculty, staff and students.
Since the facility opened its doors in June 2007, the Gonzales Center has offered an array of college-credit, workforce and continuing education courses.
The generosity in support of the Center has been tremendous. Since 2010, $1.5 million has been secured from individuals, private foundations and businesses – as well as through state grants – for scholarships, equipment, curriculum development and infrastructure improvements at the Gonzales Center. Nearly 1,000 Gonzales Center students have benefitted from over $700,000 in scholarships since 2010.
Funds for these scholarships came from donors specifically supporting Gonzales Center students as well as from the general scholarships awarded annually by the Victoria College Foundation. Without this assistance, many of these students would not have been able to realize their college and career dreams.
In 2017, Impact DataSource, an Austin-based economic consulting firm, was commissioned by Victoria College to perform a 10-year economic impact study. It found that, since opening the Center, $8.1 million had been expended by Victoria College into the Gonzales community. The study also found that the direct spending generated an additional $7.8 million in indirect sales or economic output, resulting in a total economic impact on the community of $15.9 million.
The Gonzales Center has also provided employment opportunities for the community, both at the Center and indirectly in the area. The Center currently has nine full-time and 36 part-time employees and instructors who reside in the Gonzales area.
There are other impacts that VC’s Gonzales Center has made that may not be as noticeable but demonstrate our commitment to the community and area. For example, Gonzales Center welding students and instructors donated their time and talents to construct shelters used by Gonzales ISD students as they await their buses during inclement weather.
The Gonzales Center has flourished under the management of Jackie Mikesh, who was raised in Gonzales County. Mikesh’s lifelong commitment to education and her ability to recognize the needs of her community have greatly benefitted the Gonzales Center’s ever-evolving list of course offerings. The most recent addition is an Emergency Medical Technician Course, which will begin in January 2019. This course will help meet the local and area demand in the profession.
This committed leadership will continue under new management this fall. Vince Oritiz will assume the role as director of the Center upon Mikesh’s retirement. Ortiz has 10 years of experience working with Victoria College and the Gonzales community.
We have witnessed countless inspirational student success stories during our first 11 years at the Center. Oswaldo Castelan is one such story. Oswaldo is a Gonzales High School graduate and first-generation college student. He didn’t own a car when he began classes at the Gonzales Center, so attending college out of town was not an option.
Oswaldo worked 32 hours a week at the local Walmart and 16 hours a week as a student worker at the Gonzales Center to pay for his classes. The Gonzales Center provided him a strong foundation for his college career, and he plans to continue his higher education this fall at Victoria College.
In a recent story published in the Victoria Advocate, Oswaldo said: “I tell a lot of people who are like me to start off at the Gonzales Center, because everyone is so involved in helping you, and they make sure you are successful. If it wasn’t for the Gonzales Center, a lot of people here wouldn’t be able to continue their education.”
Oswaldo is a perfect example of why Victoria College is committed to making the Gonzales Center a place where residents of Gonzales and surrounding communities can receive affordable and quality education and training.
A story appearing in the Aug. 14 edition of the Victoria Advocate incorrectly reported in-district rates had been established for Gonzales County residents. The interlocal contract, recently approved by the Gonzales City Council and Victoria College Board of Trustees, commits both parties to enter into discussions on what would need to transpire in order for any reduction in tuition or fees to be realized by Gonzales County students. Victoria College plans to initiate those discussions in the near future. The agreement also commits Victoria College to address maintenance issues up to $5,000 per occurrence.
Victoria College is grateful to the City of Gonzales for extending VC’s lease of the Gonzales Center. VC sees this partnership as critical to meeting the needs of students and the workforce. We are proud to partner with the community in sharing our vision of “Our Community, Our College: Improving Lives, Strengthening Communities,” and we are committed to the continued successes in Gonzales.
Dr. David Hinds is the president of Victoria College. He can be reached at