Column: Billionaire’s gift to Palo Alto is for all of us

Megan Armstrong San Antonio News

Last week, your Primo got a really nice early Christmas gift.

Not Junior, Joey or Flaco. The one who got the big gift was Primo. And Primo, in this case, is a palomino. He’s the mascot of Palo Alto Community College, and right now your boy is in high clover.

On Dec. 13, billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott gave $4.2 billion to organizations that will help Americans hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. She announced the gift through a blog post on

A chunk of that money — eight-figures worth, which means it’s at least 10 million bucks and could be a lot more — landed on San Antonio’s South Side, at Palo Alto College.

“These dollars will go a long way for our students in our community, and not just in the short term, but we’re talking about transitional change for generations to come,” Dr. Robert Garza, president of Palo Alto College, told KSAT News.

Transitional changes are the kind of changes we make when we want to do something in a new way to achieve a different outcome. Sometimes they are big and sweeping, sometimes they are slow and steady. Either way, transitional changes are made with a new normal in mind. And if there’s anything that COVID taught us, it’s that a lot of us are ready for a new normal.

Scott, with the help of a team of advisers, figured that Palo Alto College is a good place to start. The money that went to the college is said to be earmarked for scholarships meant to make college affordable for everyone, for students’ food and health care, and for a program that plans on introducing college to children through public and private partnerships. All of those incentives will help bring more students to the campus and keep them there. That, it appears, is what Garza meant by transitional.

Good things seem to be happening here. Palo Alto was recently named the sixth-best community college in Texas by Niche, a company that looks at data and creates rankings. Last month, the college broke ground on a new, bond-funded building that will provide a place for Palominos to gather for academic programs and student services. Garza also told KSAT that there are plans to open a new dental hygiene program here in a few years.

The best part? A public community college such as Palo Alto is for everybody. It’s a great place for young people to start and a great place for those who dropped out long ago to return. It’s a place to learn a new skill, a chance to try something new. And senior citizens who are 65 can take classes at a reduced cost.

After the year we’ve had, we could use some transitional changes.

Merry Christmas, Primos. All you have to do is show up for your share.

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