New year, new you

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When I arrived in Fredericksburg in 1978, I fell in love with everything about the area. The food, the music, the climate, the scenery, the mix of German, Spanish, and Southwestern cultures.

The one thing missing? Local access to higher education. Therefore I jumped when asked to join the committee in the early 1990s that started the push for establishing a college presence in Fredericksburg.

After some formal lobbying by that steering group, Austin Community College acknowledged the need and opportunity and began offering classes here.

This was before the era of internet and telecommuting, so they required a physical presence. As director of Community Education, I was able to arrange classrooms at the high school for those first classes. It was an instant success, with an enthusiastic response from locals wanting to get started on college.

Over the past 25 years, the offerings grew, a building was constructed, and now two schools — Texas Tech University and Central Texas College — offer an amazing array of courses both on campus and online at Hill Country University Center (HCUC).

It’s an overused cliché to call something a “best kept secret,” but it applies to HCUC. For many of us, HCUC is a place we pass on the way to the wineries. (We joke that more people would pay attention if HCUC had a football team or mascot.)

This past fall I became reengaged with HCUC, and have been privileged to interview many current students. It is gratifying that these “non-traditional” students are benefitting from an entity that was set up before they were born.

They are a diverse lot. Their ages range from 16 into the 50s, with a variety of reasons for pursuing higher education in Fredericksburg.

One student is in his 50s and works as a groundskeeper. His goal is to “get off the bulldozer” and earn a degree in business.

Another went to a university with dreams of becoming a teacher. She instead became a mother, sidelining those dreams. But only temporarily, as she figured out she could come back home and continue to take classes here.

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