The Alamo Colleges District on March 30 celebrated the opening of the new Westside Education and Training Center at 610 SW 41st St., San Antonio, a 46,907-square-foot structure that replaces an older WETC at the same site.

ACD officials said the new, bigger WETC will help to increase the community college district’s effects on San Antonio’s west side.

According to ACD, the original WETC building opened in 2006 with an enrollment of 1,347 students—three times more than its target. In the last 17 years, west side-area residents have enrolled, earning their high school diplomas, associate degrees and certificates and transferring to universities.

Northwest Vista College, the second largest in the Alamo Colleges District, offers academic courses and its community health worker program at the WETC location.

“The new WETC is the realization of many years of planning and investment,” ACD Chancellor Mike Flores said in a statement. “The Alamo Colleges is proud to open the new WETC that will continue to be a beacon of opportunity for many of the residents on the west side wanting a better life for themselves and their families.”

In May 2017, Bexar County voters approved a $450 million capital improvement bond for the Alamo Colleges District with $23 million allocated for the WETC.

Joeris General Contractors built the new facility, which contains classrooms, labs, and computer and study spaces for students as well as a veterans outreach office.

Additionally, the WETC serves as the lead site for the ACD’s Ready to Work team, where intake, advising, case management and career services take place.

ACD officials said the district’s education and training centers are one-stop centers that meet community workforce training needs, extending college, technical and academic options for students who hail from eight counties served by the ACD.

According to the ACD, the district partnering with community organizations and agencies has turned education and training centers into hubs of community assistance to aid more than 35,000 students and residents, training them in high-wage, high-demand industries; adult literacy education; GED preparation and testing; and skills for small businesses.

ACD officials also said the new WETC helps to preserve a piece of neighborhood history. The old and new WETC sits at the site of the former Lincoln Elementary School, which opened in 1959 and served mainly Black and Hispanic children.

Additionally, ACD officials said, the school’s first principal, Elizabeth T. Wrenn, was nearby Edgewood ISD’s first Black teacher, and many Black Americans who worked at the adjacent Kelly Air Force Base/Duncan Army Airfield saw Lincoln Elementary as a community asset and a safe place for neighborhood parents to send their kids.

ACD officials said the new WETC building continues Wrenn’s legacy of educating students from diverse backgrounds. Manuel Garza, WETC advisory board member and social justice advocate, said students who attended the WETC affectionately turned the WETC acronym into “We Empower The Community.”