HCC VAST Academy

Vocational Advancement and Skills Training

Houston Community College’s VAST Academy receives international recognition

Feb 3, 2020

Houston Community College’s (HCC) Academy for Vocational Advancement and Skill Training (VAST) has been transforming the lives of students by giving them a chance to receive affordable college career-readiness training leading to meaningful credentials, employment, and independence, since 1990. Most students with Intellectual or Development Disabilities (IDDs) leave high school with insufficient preparation for living independently, have little or no skills for employment, and very few options to attend college after high school. HCC has changed all of that for students.

Recently named a Zero Project Award recipient for their excellent work—offering career readiness certificates, pre-college bridge courses, internships, and employment assistance, through an inclusive, relevant and affordable model—the HCC VAST Academy is one of the first college focused educational programs in the United States purposely designed to assist students with intellectual or development disabilities.

Zero Project’s mission is working for a world with zero barriers. Worldwide, the Zero Project finds and shares models that improve the daily lives and legal rights of all persons with disabilities.

“Winning this Zero Project Award is a shining example of the excellence in education we are committed to for all students at Houston Community College,” said HCC Chancellor Dr. Cesar Maldonado. “We are proud of our program, our staff, and our graduates. Thank you to the Zero Project for their commitment and dedication to innovative practices and policies.”

“Our VAST Academy continues to serve as a pathway for many of our students who have successfully transitioned to college credit courses and graduated with workforce certificates and associate degrees,” said HCC Board of Trustees Chair John Hansen. “I am proud of this program, our staff, our college, and our students.”

“Serving on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees has been an honor for many reasons—one in particular is our VAST Academy,” said HCC Trustee Robert Glaser. “The students who graduate from the academy are contributing in numerous ways. The education and training they receive is exceptional and rewarding for them, for us, and for our community.”

The Academy has served over 4000 students, for close to three decades. Our VAST alumni have gone on to work in various fields such as: Child Development, Culinary Arts, Business Technology, Business Administration, Healthcare, and Welding—just to name a few.

"We are extremely honored and proud to have been selected for this international recognition and for this wonderful opportunity to share our VAST Academy program and student success with others from around the world.  We are also, excited to share best practices and to learn from the many other projects being honored,” said VAST program director Sue Moraska.

VAST began as a small Life skills program serving 50 students, and has grown into a Career/Vocational Academy serving over 200 students at the college campus locations across the Greater Houston area with plans to expand to more campuses. A new strategic plan is being developed with plans to implement a peer mentor model and enhanced support for students transitioning to credit programs, more inclusive courses, creation of more pathways to continuing education and workforce programs, etc. Also, we anticipate apprenticeships and new partnerships with local universities.

For close to three decades, Houston Community College’s VAST Academy has made outstanding contributions nationally, through its participation in ThinkCollege.net (TPSID) grant model project and through its state’s efforts to “Close the Gaps” in student participation, success, academic excellence and research. HCC’s VAST Academy has been a pioneer in its field and continues to grow.