Lamar State College Port Arthur hosts patching ceremony for snubbed students of Vista’s closing

Published 12:40 am Thursday, December 16, 2021

Elvis Nicho Jr., 18, let out a sigh of relief Wednesday afternoon as his name was called to receive his official Lamar State College Port Arthur patch.

He was one of several students attending the Medical Assistant program at Vista College when it abruptly closed Oct. 8, less than two months after classes began.

Nicho wasn’t originally aware his school had closed until he got an email while cooking lunch for his family. He then called classmate Gabriel Hartford. And at first, Hartford thought it was a joke, until he checked his email too.

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“It was sudden. We had only gotten through about three or four chapters of the book,” Hartford, 21, said. “And it was a big book.”

Nicho said he was desensitized at first, but his mom “freaked out.”

But with help from the state and Region V Education Center, the stranded Vista students were able to transfer LSCPA or Lamar Institute of Technology.

“We stepped in with some funding from the state, so we were able to pay their Lamar State College tuition to continue the class after Vista College was disbanded,” said Claire Gilliam of Region V. “I’m also here to help out if anyone’s struggling to keep up with the course work — helping with things like study skills and stuff like that.”

She was also there to celebrate some milestones Wednesday as the college hosted a patching ceremony and honored those that had made the Dean’s and President’s lists.

“What an honor to be here today,” said Dr. Ben Stafford, vice president of Workforce and Continuing Education, at the beginning of the ceremony. “I want to tell you a little bit about the college you are joining, because a lot of people don’t know that much about us. LSCPA is one of the 10 oldest 2-year colleges in the state of Texas.”

Stafford spoke on the history of the college, dating back to its inception in 1909. He explained the various courses around the campus, as well as the upcoming expansion of the commercial driving program, which will make it the largest in Texas.

“When you think about your state college, you can think about a long history of success and something that you can be proud of,” he said.

Gilliam also spoke before Kim Guillory, course instructor, began calling the six students up one by one to receive their LSCPA patches, which was only earned through certain requirements such as no more than two absences.

Gabriel Hartford and Gwenda Thomas were presented with certificates for making the Dean’s List, which requires a 3.5 or higher grade point average. And Gabriela Vazquez and Karita Ardoin were celebrated for making the President’s List, which requires a 4.0 GPA.

After the patches and certificates were handed out, Guillory thanked the crowd for attending.

“This really means a lot, especially for the situation that happened with Vista closing and Lamar being able to transition through Region V,” she said.

Afterward the ceremony, class went on winter break and will resume Jan. 10. The entire course lasts a year and a half, Gilliam said, and then the students take their certification tests.