When Cindy Villalta arrived at North Lake College in June 2011, she couldn’t speak any English at all. “I didn’t have knowledge of the English language, whatsoever. I could barely put a sentence together.” Now she’s an NLC graduate, studying at one of the top advertising programs in the United States.
New Home, New Language, No Problem
Villalta arrived in Texas from her native El Salvador searching, she says, “for better educational opportunities.” The welcoming nature of North Lake, along with its affordability, helped draw her to take a year of ESL classes. “As time went on, I realized I was learning at a very fast pace. It took me only ten months to fully learn (write, speak, read) and comprehend English.” Villalta was highly motivated and a quick learner, but she also credits her teachers. “My professors always encouraged me to keep trying.”
After that first year, Villalta decided to remain at North Lake to complete her associate degree. “Realizing the quality of professors, meeting inspiring leaders, and being surrounded by an environment of opportunity made me stay and complete my first two years of college.” She graduated with an Associate in Arts in spring 2015.
An Ambitious Young Leader
During her NLC years, Cindy was a whirlwind of energy and ambition on campus, attending seemingly every college event. Honing her natural leadership skills, she became involved in the Blazer Ambassadors, the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, Student Leadership Institute, and Student Government Association. Hoping to give back, “I participated in several service activities,” she adds, listing community outreach programs like Keep Irving Beautiful and Teens Reaching Teens. Villalta also visited local high schools to help disadvantaged students with the college application process.
That track record of grades, language skills, and sheer drive to succeed helped Cindy earn a spot in the advertising program at the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communication. The Journal of Advertising Education recently named UT the top advertising program in America, and Interactive Advertising Bureau ranked UT #1 in the digital field.
Cindy adds that NLC advisors helped her make the leap to the nationally-renowned program. “My academic advisor walked me through all the university options available. I couldn’t have arrived to UT Austin without the help of my advisors and NLC faculty, who went always an extra mile to help me.”
Villalta is enjoying the new challenges at UT. “Starting in a small community such as NLC prepared me to be more qualified at the time of transferring.” After graduation she aspires to work at a global advertising agency and use her success to help disadvantaged children in her home country, El Salvador. Wherever Cindy Villalta ends up, she will always be thankful for her years at North Lake College. “NLC was the smartest choice I’ve ever made.”