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Eleven Rivers Review Palo Alto College Student Arts and Literature

Palo Alto College Volume 1, Issue 1 Spring 2015 Cover Art:

Palo Alto 30th Anniversary Mandala by Elijah Reyes

The Mission: The Eleven Rivers Review is a biannual student-sourced publication that provides an outlet for our diverse student community to express itself creatively. Our aim is to foster appreciation for art and literature at Palo Alto College and encourage the students to grow as individuals through art and writing. Our name is an homage to the 11Texas Rivers from which our campus buildings take their names.


Acknowledgements The Eleven Rivers Review staff thanks all the faculty and staff who helped make our maiden voyage a success Dr. Rafael Castillo, Professor of English Lee Ann Epstein, INRW Lab Coordinator (SPC) Dr. Mary-Ellen Jacobs, Dean of Arts and Sciences Mario Leal, INRW Learning Center Tutor Diane Lerma, INRW Instructor Karen Mahaffey, Associate Professor of Art Thomas Murguia, Tutoring Services Coordinator Matilda Staudt, INRW Lead Instructor and many others

Editorial Staff Student Staff

Faculty Staff

Deidre Carrillo

Hunter Bates

Elijah Reyes Joseph Trevino


Table of Contents Palo Alto 30th Anniversary Mandala—Eli Reyes……………. Cover

Curiosity Killed the Cat—Melissa Tarin Croom………………


Night Vision—Eli Reyes………………………………………...


Great Heights—Deidre Carrillo………………………………...


Lincoln Memorial—Deidre Carrillo…………………………….


Gaara of the Sand—Abigail Barrientez……………………….


Self-Portrait—Sergio Medina…………………………………..


The Unique in Me—Vanessa Viramontes…………………….


Blue Skull—Lizeth Garcia-Covarrubias……………………….


The Lonely Moon—Elijah Reyes………………………………


Shaking—William Garcia……………………………………….


I Came up Empty—Melissa Tarin Croom……………………..


Landscape—Sergio Medina……………………………………


The 20 Years Sleep—Joseph Trevino………………………..


Dragon Sprite—Abigail Barrientez…………………………….


Princess of Souls—Lizeth Garcia-Covarrubias………………


Sleep—Sergio Medina………………………………………….


The Gift—Melissa Tarin Croom………………………………..


Durga—Elijah Reyes…………………………………………….


Telescreen—Joseph Trevino……………………………………


Slenderman—Alvaro Piña………………………………………


Change is Beautiful—Angela Espinoza………………………..


Rose Color Rotation—Abigail Varientez ………………………


The Seeds of Palo Alto—Joseph Trevino………………………



Curiosity Killed the Cat By Melissa Tarin Croom

Tiberius The Monstrous Knocked gently On the door. Bulvarius The Curious Was heard of Never more.


Night Vision By Elijah Reyes


Great Heights By Deidre Carrillo As a previous student of cyber security, I was taught to be aware of possible threats and scams. When I received the email explaining the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to exhibit in the White House Science Fair, my initial reaction was that it was a scam. It isn't common for someone to receive an email offering such an opportunity. We usually receive the occasional email from a Nigerian prince wanting our credit card information. Luckily, the school district at Southwest worked diligently to prepare for my trip and everything was sorted out a week and a half before the event. There was no way they would allow a student to miss such an experience. I wasn’t given much information about the opportunity, but that my advisors were expected to submit an entry about my involvement in the Southwest Engineering Team and CyberPatriot. I had just been awarded the Award for Aspiration in Computing on April 10. I believe it is one of the multiple reasons I was selected to attend. The main reason I was invited was because of my involvement with the Southwest Engineering Team. It was the electrathon vehicles I had been working with throughout high school that caught their attention. The school district and I faced some issues when we were asked whether we could get the car to the White House. No car, no presentation is what it came down to. The car was driven by truck and trailer to Washington D.C. by my two advisors, Mr. Franz and Mr. Holmes from the Southwest Engineering Team. The White House Science Fair's focus for the year was women in STEM. SWISD believed I was a great example of young ladies involved in STEM projects and pursuing related careers.


I was expected to fly to D.C. on Sunday May 25, just in time for Memorial Day. I left early Sunday morning to San Antonio International Airport with my parents. Luckily, my mother was flying with me as I had never traveled alone and she would also be my chaperone for the event. My mother and I met up with Mr. Celestin, my high school computer maintenance teacher, who was also flying with me as a chaperone. Sunday was devoted to flying from San Antonio to Dallas and Atlanta to Washington D.C. I remember having a moment on the plane; I was tearing up and thinking to myself, "I can't believe I brought myself here." It was difficult to believe such an opportunity was waiting as I had received disheartening ridicule from an unsupportive friend. With all the unnecessary negativity I was receiving I felt undeserving of such an invitation. I put these emotions aside to enjoy what was waiting in front of me. We didn’t arrive to D.C. until two that afternoon and were picked up by the suburban that had left a few days earlier with the electrathon car. We spent the rest of Sunday afternoon relaxing and preparing for the next day. Monday was the day for unloading, setting up, and preparing for Tuesday’s events. The security for the White House is incredible; we spent over two hours waiting for guards and search dogs to overlook our vehicle and trailer. Once we reloaded everything back into the trailer, we traveled into the gates of the White House until we arrived at the front steps. I was standing at the front steps of the White House and I still didn't believe it. Knowing the perfectionist I am, I knew I wasn't going to enjoy the moment until my car and exhibit were perfectly set up. I would be presenting in the State Dining Room right under the portrait of President Lincoln, which I practiced before leaving on Tuesday. I took it as good sign: Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president. While setting up, I was instructed to move the car onto the floor because the president wanted me to get inside the car tomorrow. After setting

up, my mother and I were given the opportunity to look around the Blue Room, Green Room, Red Room and the restrooms, which were incredible. While we were in D.C., I was eager to visit the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Thankfully, my mother took me, and that’s when it finally hit me. It was real. I was sitting outside the Lincoln Memorial and I would be presenting to the president tomorrow.

Lincoln Memorial by Deidre Carrillo Tuesday was a blur. I don’t think my mother or I slept that night. It was all too surreal. I spent the morning getting ready to “Eye of The Tiger” and “Paradise City.” I was over an hour late to the White House, which does not make for a good impression. My mother, Mr. Celestin, and I ended up walking the remainder of the block to the main entrance. Upon arrival, I had to enter alone hugging my mother good-bye and she wished me good luck. The se-


curity was intense; I went through three searches before I was able to enter. Walking through a long hallway, I felt lost until I was met by staff to escort me to my destination. From what I was able to see, there are many twists and turns in the White House–long hallways, lots of doors and restricted areas. I was within a group of about twelve kids presenting in the State Dining Room. Everyone became acquainted before we had a small breakfast on the South Lawn, where I met the presidential pets, Bo and Sunny. After that we were led back into our sites where countless reporters swarmed in for interviews. My experience with public speaking came in handy. I enjoyed meeting with the interviewers and companies who were interested in potentially hiring me. When it was time to present I was exhausted from all the speaking. When President Barack Obama entered the State Dining Room, he was followed by a swarm of reporters and photographers. He visited each exhibitor respectively until he reached my exhibit. I pretended I was talking to any other person interested in the electrathon car and not the President of the United States. I shook hands and introduced myself to President Obama; unfortunately, no one refuses to let it go that I corrected the President three times in pronouncing my name. "Deerdra." "No, Deidre." I began to explain what the "electric go kart" is and how it works. President Obama made a joke about how was unable to fit into such a small vehicle and asked for a demonstration. Before getting into the car, President Obama made a comparison between the seatbelt harnesses I used and the ones inside the Blackhawk helicopters. I explained the different components inside of the car and what their purposes were for our competition. President Obama was interested in knowing what the cycle analyst was, which is used for determining how much electric power I'm pulling out from batteries. After finishing my presentation, I was able to take a picture beside President Obama, who joked about the trophies being



bigger than me. After pictures, I was escorted into the East Room where President Obama would be giving a speech on the importance of STEM. During his speech, President Obama addressed how important it is to have women more involved in STEM related careers and reintroduced each exhibitor and their projects. During his reintroduction he recognized me as "the young lady from San Antonio." Family and friends joked that because the Spurs were in the playoffs, I should have said "Go Spurs Go!" During the speech I was able to meet and take a selfie with Bill Nye The Science Guy, which was amazing all on its own. After the speech, we returned to our designated areas where we were reunited with parents and chaperones. Parents were in separate buildings because the event was only hosted for the participants. My mother surprised me and we were able to visit other exhibits within the White House. While visiting the exhibits, I was stopped by Bobak Ferdowsi, better known as the "NASA Mohawk Guy." He asked where my green hair was because I was known for having green hair during my competitions. As the day was coming to an end, I met incredibly intelligent students of all ages. Meeting young students who are already preparing for college and thinking ahead in STEM made me wish I could have started at a younger age. It is incredible to watch students so passionate and dedicated to solving a problem and making a difference. I was proud to be among these students as I was also making a difference in my community as a role model. As a fellow student and woman in STEM, I encourage all students, especially young ladies, to follow their arrow to wherever it may lead. With a little dedication, hard work, and passion we can achieve whatever we set our minds to, because we are all capable of reaching great heights.


Gaara of the Sand By Abigail Barrientez


Self-Portrait By Sergio Medina


The Unique in Me By Vanessa Viramontes "An American female who is the most beautiful, perfect, cutest girl you will ever see"—YUP! That’s me, Vanessa Viramontes. Most people aren't as confident or proud of their name, but I am. I have my mom to thank for such an amazing name. My mother named me Vanessa because she had a best friend with that name when she was younger. They were always together—like peanut butter and jelly. They were inseparable. They promised each other that whoever had a girl first would name her baby her best friend’s name. One night months later, my mom's friend Vanessa was in a car with the wrong crowd and died in a car accident. My mom went through a rough time without her best friend. Years later, my mom had my two older brothers before finally having me, her first girl, also known as Vanessa. My name isn't just a name to me; it's a name that has special meaning to my mom, and I'm glad I was her first girl because my sister’s name was just picked out randomly. My last name isn't as common as others. I call it unique. Ever since I was a little girl, I have been called Viramontes because it's 15

an unusual last name. In Mexico, where my father was born, his last name was very popular. There were stores named after that long, unique last name, and people would be surprised that there was actually a last name that long. There were some times—like writing papers, sitting in alphabetical order, and even graduation—when I hated my last name. It would be annoying knowing I would be the last student, while all the A's are being called up there first. I would have to sit there waiting until the V's were next, but as my dad would say, "At least you're not a Z." If I were to give myself a last name, it would actually stay the same because I like being different. I like being the only "Viramontes" in a classroom especially on my graduation night. I take pride for the name I was given—both first and last. Vanessa Viramontes has a story behind her name, and I'm glad I've had the chance to listen to the stories both my parents told me when I was little. Because of them, I take so much pride in my name. I'm satisfied with not only my name but also the story it has to it.


Blue Skull By Lizeth Garcia-Covarrubias


Lonely Moon By Elijah Reyes



Shaking By William Garcia

I am a scared little boy I am searching for identity I am desparate for connection I am confused so instantly I am no one you should trust I am lost in sad and lonely I am comprehending necessities My façade is that only I am illogical and persistent I am the one holding back I am shaking anticipation I am no longer who I am


I Came up Empty By Melissa Tarin Croom

Slithering out of bed Shuffling to the kitchen Searching for a morning drink But I came up empty. Running late as usual Digging into the laundry Looking for clean underwear But I came up empty . Passing by the lobby mirror Fixing my hair and puckering my lips Fishing for a compliment But I came up empty. Pushing dinner around my plate Feeling the pounding of an abandoned heart Trying to find the words to make you stay But I came up empty. Crying curled up on the couch Sipping scotch from a Styrofoam cup Wondering where I misplaced my validation But I came up empty. Reflecting on these last few months Unable to pinpoint when it went wrong Hoping to convince myself that you meant the world to me But I came up empty.


Landscape By Sergio Medina


The 20 Year Sleep By Joseph Trevino “Milk the cows, Rip!” “Pull the weeds, Rip!” My goodness, I thought, that woman would nag until the end of days. If I sat in that house and listened to that sharp tongue of hers from sun up ‘til sun down, I’m certain, I’d age twenty years in a mere twenty minutes. There was a marvelously pleasant breeze sweeping through the Catskills that day. “Perhaps I’ll go shoot some squirrels with the dog and enjoy some peace away from the wretchedness of this lady,” I thought. I expected just an ordinary hunting day and thought I ought to be back by the hour young Rip returned from the schoolhouse for supper. “Wolf!” I shouted, and the exuberant golden pup romped on over to join my side. As the chatter of the town began to fade into the distance, we slowly closed in on the forest just at the base of the towering mountain. The colorful beauty of the autumn season exposed its dynamic face on all sides of us. As Wolf and I trekked along the steep incline, red and gold leaves danced and whirred around in small eddies at our feet. As we grew closer to the summit, the magnificence and sheer majesty of the Catskills and the magical sparkling sapphire-shaded water of the Hudson River became woefully apparent. Near the pinnacle of the great mountain, Wolf jumped at the sudden sound of a deafening clap of thunder. In my rash curiosity, I urged my hound that we investigate the source of the knell. After perhaps ten paces, my left foot struck an object nestled in the leaves—an object far more solid than the lush, soft ground. Wolf swept away the leaves to reveal a colossal bronze door key. Not very easily, I lifted the key and dropped it into my satchel. The thunder continued… As the peak grew closer, the forest seemed to feel much more…surreal. Top-


ping the mountain was an absolutely massive evergreen—truly gargantuan! Carved into the large trunk was a door with a keyhole large enough for small birds to reside in. With a fair amount of effort, I inserted the key into the lock mechanism and unlocked the old heavy door. At this time, the thunder was booming so loud I could feel my chest pound with every strike. Pushing the door with all my weight, a dim light slowly illuminated the dark space and the smell of rum slithered up my nostrils like a seductive serpent. Wolf, too spooked to follow, waited outside the tree. A large round room opened up before me, lit by candles against the walls. The tree itself, as massive as it was, felt as though it could collapse at any moment; all around were signs that it was old, broken, ridden with lichen and moss and smelling faintly of flame. Whatever place this was, it was a rotten place. In the center, was a huddle of stout, gruff-visaged, bearded men at a game of ninepins. They were dressed in rather odd, old Dutch garments similar to those worn in the earlier days of the settlement. Their trousers were adorned with ornate brass buttons and white ruffles—but it was their faces that struck me. Despite the fun of their game, they wore the gravest of human expressions. As I examined the eccentricities of these characters and attempting to comprehend the event I’d fallen into, one of them approached me with a silver chalice filled with liquor. His cold eyes insisted I drink it—an invitation I was by no means reluctant to accept. My head was swimming and my eyes grew heavier…and heavier. After nodding off a few times for a moment or two, three of the figures led me back out into the forest—a forest that now looked somewhat different than the forest I had just ventured through with Wolf, but I was failing to put a finger on it. And Wolf had gone amiss! I assumed he had probably meandered astray chasing squirrels somewhere amidst the green. As I looked up to the hue-scattered sky, so beautifully painted by the setting sun, there came a sound of the wings of a dragonfly and I became aware of a bus-


tling group of creatures flitting through the forest canopy above my head. The mystical beings gaily danced through the tree branches—they looked much like fairies or sprites from a child’s storybook. Still mesmerized by the tree phantoms, I followed them to a different large pine with a door carved into its base. They waved their hands around and conjured up a key from what seemed to be nothing. With no trouble at all, the stoutest of the three brought the key up to the door and unlocked it. Inside was a chamber much smaller than the amphitheater hollowing of the first tree. In the center of the quarters was a figure, similar in appearance to the other phantoms but far more morbid and grotesque in the face. Rather than a pointed hat, his head bore a very large but tarnished ring, which he wore as if it were used as a crown. If it ever had an illustrious glow, it had long since faded. His eyes appeared sweaty, somehow, encrusted and yellow. If he was the king of anyone, it came as a shock to me. “Rip Van Winkle!” The king croaked in a deep belch. “Ve here in th’ land of the Spiritfolk are – hic – aware that you find great joy in helping others. Th’ kindess of yer heart and all that fiddle-faddle. Thusly…” He paused a minute and seemed to nod off into sleep. A second later, he snapped back up with a quickly rushed, “Thuslyvehaveselected you to help us regain the Faerypeople Territories across the Lake of Tranquility. To do so, you must relieve the Fairypeople of their code of laws. For it is the source of their power as an independent nation. If you succeed, you will be rewarded with three wishes. If you should fail, a twenty-year curse will be bestowed upon you.” Still mostly unaware of exactly where I was and whether I was dreaming, I gazed stupidly into his dark beady eyes. “Well, stop your dilly—hic—dally—hic—n’GETOUT’VEHERE!!!” he roared. I scrambled for the door and back into the depths of the forest. After a few moments of aimless running, I saw a clearing begin to emerge in


the distance. A small lake revealed itself beneath the mist. Across, thousands of small glittering lights shown through the fog—zipping around like shooting stars on a clear night. I quickly climbed into an old wooden canoe laying on the shore and, pushing the vessel into the dark water, began rowing toward the lights. As the twinkling grew nearer, I could see that the zipping lights were creatures. Each one was no taller than my own hand. Sprouting from their backs were translucent wings of varying shapes and sizes. Arriving at the shore, I was promptly greeted by three small winged fairies. “What might we do for you this evening, Sir?” they asked. I stuttered at first, for I could not find the words to say to these dainty little creatures with bodies like brittle glass. To touch them, I thought, would cause them to shatter into pieces. I found myself unable to speak, instead merely drifting, unable to answer their question at all. How I got there, I honestly could not tell you, but when I came to from my brief daze, sure I was dreaming, I was sitting in a tiny throne room with no walls, no ceilings, only darkness. The fairies appeared through the scene like lightning bugs; they flitted across the room in a dizzying flurry, leave the room scented as though lit by a now-faded camphor. “I admit I am from a strange land,” I finally uttered, my senses slowly turned betwixt. “I am unfamiliar with this place. I was told to come here by… someone.” More fairies soon came to light, seeming to simply glow into being and appear before me. “Well, wherever you are from, you seem to bear no ill will to the Faerypeople, and it is a poor show of judgment to not show goodwill to a wayward traveler. However, first we ask that you remove your shoes. We would not like it if you brought mud into our kingdom.” The fairies spoke in unison but all their voices sounded like a single fiddle plucked gently at the end of the string. I did not begrudge them of their wish, though I felt it odd. I took off my shoes and all at once,


they began disappearing and reappearing into being within seconds of each other, suddenly returning with a plethora of tiny treasures and trinkets. I felt my feet give out beneath me—not in violence but in a kind of peacefulness, as though they had no need to stand on their own volition any longer—and I rested in midair, suspended in a bed of blinking lights. My ears were filled with the sound of a harp’s song, and my mouth tasted with a sweetness I can only name as ambrosia. This was peace. This was bliss. (I must be dreaming.) “The Faerypeople welcome you, traveler. This lake has been ours for many a season since the swamp surrendered it unto us. We began the task of purifying it and making it pristine and crystalline, as you see before you now.” The darkness opened, and I looked now at the lake as the mist cleared, and indeed, it was pure as glass, shimmering by the twinkling light of the stars. Lights appeared off the shores on both sides, filling it all with a heavenly white glow. “Ours is an existence of clandestinity: cleanliness is close to godliness and all that, and the Faerypeople are the cleanest creatures in the forest.” Their words, which slipped through my ears and out, seemed wafted rather than spoken. And I still felt as though I were floating in a cheerful cloud. Everything felt right; everything felt safe. “Now, you say you were sent by someone, traveler?” the voices chimed again, seeming to condensate in an ether of existence rather than being spoken. Who rightly knows how long it had been since they had spoken to me? It could have been a moment, a second perhaps, or two decades. All else had vanished in the white and gold. “Who wishes to commune with us in your homeland?” they asked. “Well, ‘tis not my homeland, to be quite sure,” I replied. “Some mysterious fellows from the forests across the lake who—my goodness, listen to me. I sound as if I were mad! A lunatic! But a man…or ghost—I don’t know what he was!” My lack of clarity had begun to rattle me from my peaceful state. “He wore a ring on his


Dragon Sprite by Abigail Barrientez head and said he would curse me if I didn’t relieve your people of your book of laws! He says it is the core and essence of your society, but I don’t see myself relieving anyone of anything—I can’t even bring myself to stand! I would never! You are a wonderful people, simply wond…”The cloud of shimmering light suddenly dissolved and I fell flat on my rump; the white glow around me


had gone out in a single second before returning in a haze of fearsome indigo and blue, as though one loud gasp had snuffed out the wonderful colors.

Princess of Souls by Lizeth Garcia-Covarrubias


There was a pittering-and-pattering throughout the room that became higher in tune, swirling around at once curiously and then in a frenzy, and I could tell these creatures were afraid of the tidings I had brought them. “The Spiritfolk!” the voices seemed to screech in a crescendo of fear. Suddenly the indigo and blue around me turned to red—rage, anger, bold and hateful—and suddenly they began to swirl around me, slowly lifting me into the air. “You came to destroy us in the name of the Spiritfolk?!” the immensely tiny voice barked out, its once delightful harp-like ring now turned into a kind of ferocious whirling, dying, deflating through multiple voices and tones. They flew now in a swarm across the blackness: fitful, wrathful. “How dare you! The Spiritfolk are selfish entities of malice and aggression! And all because we destroyed their forces in the war for our freedom! Too long did they trifle with us and we could no longer cower in our township under their tyrannical oppression! If they aim to try and destroy us again, we will respond with thrice the force of the first great war!” The lake awoke in pure flame as the fairies now rose around me, swirling in a mighty tempest. Their sound was the buzzing of thousands of beehives thrown into the tunnel of a thunderclap in the midst of an angry storm, taking everything around and razing it to dust. “And we will start with you, you harbinger of death!” The swarm that had enveloped me now began to tighten, and a sudden prickling and popping came around my face like a thousand tiny shards of glass shattering around my skin and the piercing of a thousand needles in my chest. The swarm began to squeeze and churn around me and I felt as though my body would simply be twisted apart and torn. My wife had been right all along; if am to ever see her again, I decided, I will properly wash my own socks and keep them in the drawer, not on the floor. Then, a single shard pierced my heart and I violently spurted out blood that


sparkled with the reflection of the swarm. I closed my eyes to escape the horror. Upon opening them, I found myself lying in a colorful pile of familiar autumn leaves at the base of the gargantuan pine. No door though, I observed, and no men. I had no idea where my rifle had gone but a rusty, aged rifle in the likeness of my own had taken its place. My back ached as though it were still pierced as in the horrid dream. My face had been blanketed in a snowy white beard. Confused and afraid, I cried out, “Wolf!!!” No answer.


Sleep By Sergio Medina


The Gift By Melissa Tarin Croom A trickle of blood slipped between my fingers. I knew it was a gift; my brain told me it was a gift. The mighty hunter who brought it to me sat at my feet, proud and powerful and graceful. But my heart was breaking with each shiver of this poor mangled tuff of fluff I cupped so tenderly in my hand. I should have twisted its neck to end its suffering, but I was a coward. Its back leg was so broken, it bent backwards. One of its long ears was torn in half, just barely hanging on. It had puncture marks on its neck from being carried across the field. But what it was dying from surely must have been the gouge in its stomach. As it struggled to breathe, barely conscious, the lumps of pinks and purplish-browns glistened in the afternoon sunshine. I should have put it down; I should have laid it in the soft emerald spring grass. But I didn’t. Instead, I held on to it, wanting so much to caress its tiny head, to comfort its fear; stroking it would have only scared it more. I should have put it down; washed my hands of it. But I couldn’t. I held onto it, obligated to share its agony, obligated to hold it until Death himself gently took it from my grasp. In one final quiver, it opened its mouth to quietly scream, and then it shook loose the binds of this world. I buried the bunny deep beneath the bed of bluebonnets. I had to. It was, after all, my gift. 32  

Durga By Elijah Reyes


Telescreen By Joseph Trevino


Slenderman By Alvaro Piña


Change is Beautiful Angela Espinoza

Unlike most marriages, I did not know the challenges that would come from marrying a man with one working arm. When my husband Robert was a year and a half old, he was in a car accident. He unbuckled his car seat and jumped out of his dad’s moving vehicle. He told me he thought he was Superman. He says he can still hear the screeching tires coming to a stop as his body rolled under the vehicle.” That day he died for a while, until paramedics brought him back. His right arm, ligaments, and nerves were completely damaged, disabling him from using his right arm ever again. This completely changed his life forever. Having to learn to bathe himself, clothe himself, and tie his shoes with one arm was difficult, especially for a soon to be two-year -old. Children, being children, are expected to want to learn to ride a bike and learn how to swim, but my husband unfortunately never got to experience any of that. He says his elementary years were the worst for him. “Kids were jerks,” he tells me. “I always got made fun of and picked on all the time.” I don’t know how painful his childhood years were for him, but I can only imagine. As I’m writing this, I cannot help but to feel a deep empathy for him.


Despite the challenges that life has brought him, he has always been a very hard working man. He has managed to maintain a job, and he’s always looking out for our best interests. My husband has picked up on so many hobbies. He makes custom BBQ pits by hand—and let me tell you, they come out very nice. He’s an awesome artist and custom builder. If you were to see his work, you’d be amazed. Hell, he’s even amazed me and my family more than a couple of times. My husband is a very proud United States citizen; he would’ve loved to fight for our country; but being disabled, he couldn’t join the Marines. Robert has a younger brother, who is a joke to society – just a waste of a perfect vessel. I envy him greatly. I always tell myself, “Why did God let this happen to my husband?” I feel that if people would look past his disability, it would make life much easier for him. Robert believes that if he didn’t work for it, then he doesn’t deserve it. I love that quality about him. Robert’s accident has made him such a strong person, though he will never see or understand the qualities I see in him. Robert doesn’t like handouts; he says “I’ve made it this far without you, why do I need your sympathy now?!” Being disabled, some people are so quick to judge. It’s been about twenty-five years since his accident. This year in March of 2015, we made an appointment with a neurologist to take a second look at his arm. I heard that the body tries to re-program itself,


so we said why not? The doctor put needles in both arms and all the way up to his neck to see if his body on the right side had made any improvements. It hadn’t. Needless to say, we found out he had developed carpal tunnel on his left hand. Robert was immediately appalled. When we left the office, we sat in the truck for a while. He looked at me and said, “I’m Sorry Angela.” In that exact moment I asked myself, what does a person do to deserve all of this? Just as any wife does, I said everything will be OK. I gave him a hug and told him I loved him greatly, when in reality, I just didn’t know what to say. I guess I was just as shocked as he was. Like I said, my husband is always thinking about me rather than his own well-being. Nobody knows how quick our lives can change from day to day, and nobody knows if we are guaranteed another day of life. No one knows why we are put here on Earth, but I do know my husband was put here to show others, and to show me, that life is way too short to dwell on the past or look upon regrets. Robert has taught me to not take things for granted. He shows me every day that life can be beautiful and fulfilling, even though you don’t have much to offer but yourself. What I see in him is a beautiful soul.


Rose Color Rotation By Abigail Barrientez


The Seeds of Palo Alto: An interview with Rafael Castillo By Joseph Trevino To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Palo Alto College, I decided to interview a founding faculty member who I hoped could provide some insight regarding the history of the college. The last remaining original faculty member, Rafael Castillo provided that and much more. Castillo is an English professor at Palo Alto College and teaches numerous creative writing courses. Castillo was also the founder of the Palo Alto Review, the literary journal preceding the Tall Tree Review and the Eleven Rivers Review. In this interview, Rafael sheds some light on the early days of Palo Alto College, the history of the Palo Alto Review, and his thoughts on the direction of the college.

Joseph Trevino: How did you first hear about Palo Alto College? Rafael Castillo: It was in the newspaper back in 1981. They were discussing putting a college on the Southside and I waited patiently until the time came from when I first read it in the newspaper and I went and applied. And it was back in 19—almost at the cusp of ’84. And I waited. Later on, I heard from the first president who got hired. He called me in February, I think. And he asked me, “You’re one of the applicants who applied for the department of English?” I said,


“Yes, sir.” I gave him my resume; we talked. And then he asked me some questions. He asked me something strange. He said, “Tell us why we should hire you.” Off the cuff, I said, “Well, you should hire me because you’re getting two professors for the price of one.” “Really? How so?” “For number one, I teach writing. I’m a writer. And number two, I teach English. I’m an English instructor. So I can teach, like, communications courses. I can do that.” And he said, “Well, I’ll be! So you think you can start in the summer?” I said, “Yes, sir. I can start in the summer.” But I said, “There’s something I have to do first.” He said, “What is it?” I said I wouldn’t be there in the summer. “I’ll be in Europe. Paris,” I said. “Paris? Paris, Texas?” “No, sir; Paris, France. I’ll be there for two months. So I should be getting back by late August.” He said, “Okay. We’ll give you a call.” As soon as I got home, boom, I got a call. He says, “Okay. We’ll expect you here at Palo Alto. Come on over and sign the papers.” That was it. Boom! The rest is history. JT: What attracted you to Palo Alto College? RC: Because it was a college on the Southside. It gives you a chance to get different geographical dimensions. JT: Why do you think the college was being built on the Southside in the first place? RC: Well there had already been a college built way on the Northside


of San Antonio called UTSA, and it had a lot of issues because there was no bus service. If you had a car, you could make it. It was out in the boonies and the people that go there had to have a car. If you didn’t have a car, you’re stuck. There’s no bus service; and that came later—about three years later. And I think the state congressmen and state senators wanted to build a school on the Southside because they felt it was a neglected area—a neglected quadrant of San Antonio. So, with the help of cops, they fought for it. And they got it. But there was a lot of resistance. People argued, “Well people on the Southside don’t go to school. If they do, they could go to SAC. Besides, what if you build it and no one comes? Maybe you could make it into a flea market.” That was their argument. But that didn’t happen. We started with 210 students and then the next semester had, like, double that. Then the next year it had like 1,300 and then 3,000 and it started growing and growing. And that’s great. That’s the good thing about it. JT: And Mr. Meyers said the campus itself wasn’t built ‘til a few years after the school opened. RC: Yeah. The campus wasn’t built to accommodate, like, over 10,000 students. It was built to accommodate, at the maximum, maybe 5,000. That’s why it had to grow. And the president was asked, “What do you want to be built next? What do you want? Do you want a gymnasium? Do you want this…?” And he said, “We need an arts


center.” “An arts center?” “Yes.” So the arts center was built, and then came the gymnasium, then came the huge natatorium—and it was big. That sucker was big! An Olympic size swimming pool. That was built and more people started coming. JT: The one that’s still here now? RC: Yeah! It’s a big swimming pool! JT: Because there wasn’t enough room for all the students at first, where were the class held? RC: Oh! The first time! You mean before the facilities were even built! They were held at Kelly Air Force Base—like a little mall there. That’s where we had our first courses. It was a small little area, and next door was a bar called The Gopher Hole. I remember that. But it was nice; there was room. That’s where we started when we were waiting for this place to get built. And all our night classes were done at high schools at night or in little churches. Then, slowly, we built this place and it started growing. You know what also happened here? In the year 2005, Texas A&M [San Antonio] started here—out in the little barracks on the side. It started here on our campus. They were like step-children. The instructors would come in and teach. I had a chance to teach. Aguirre taught, Tony from psychology, some other people taught too. We taught there for Texas A&M, so we were doing two jobs. We were doing Palo Alto and Texas A&M. So I


stayed with them for 10 years teaching part-time until I taught graduate courses, so it was very good; but then they moved to their own campus. So another college had its beginning here! A&M can’t say, “Well…” No, no, no! A&M started here! Right behind the library. They were like little barracks there. JT: The portables? RC: Yeah! The portables! It was great! JT: What courses did you first teach? RC: I taught 0301, which is remedial. I taught two remedial and one 1301. Actually, no; I taught all remedial because we didn’t have 1301. So those students graduated and moved on to 1301. It was great! You know how many students I’d have in class sometimes? 5… 7… I would bring donuts and coffee for them and sit in circles, and I’d say, “If you’re gonna be absent, let me know and I’ll have someone pick you up.” And they’d say, “This is great! You’ll pick us up!?” They loved it. They loved the little warm family. Then we started getting bigger and bigger and it eroded that. When you’re at a small college, it’s great because everyone knows one another. You come in and talk and I could say, “Hey Joseph! Come on, let’s go get a coffee [or] let’s go get some sodas.” But the big schools, you can’t do that. JT: How involved were you in student recruitment?


RC: Actually, we were all part of student recruitment. All of us had to. That was our main job: student recruitment. We’d go to mall. We’d work part-time at malls passing out little leaflets at South Park Mall. We were all involved with student recruitment from the very beginning. We had to. And we were involved with all the committees. I was in more committees than anybody could remember. JT: So you had several other responsibilities? RC: Oh yeah! It’s not just teaching. Cause no one was here to do it. So we were learning. We also started our first faculty senate, and I was our vice president. Jim Riley, he taught business, he was the president. It was great. I enjoyed all that. JT: How quickly did the school begin to grow – like, the buildings? RC: Well the buildings took a little time, but the students started getting bigger and bigger. And now with the Internet, that starts chipping away the need for buildings because everyone does Internet. But I think we had like 28 instructors, now we have no more than maybe 15 or 12. Because, you know, you got Internet. And with Internet, you got Dual Credit and you got college at the different places and you do AP. But it’s good, we were the ones to start Dual Credit. The other colleges never had that. We were the ones that introduced it. We’re


very innovative. And the other ones are like, “What’s that Dual Credit? Why are they doing that? Hmm… maybe we should get involved with that.” So we were kind of the first to start that Dual Credit movement. I enjoyed that. Now everyone does it. It originated here. JT: What were some other challenges faced in the early days of Palo Alto College? RC: Well I think the early days were very idyllic days. We had a lot of freedom. There’s a lot of growth and movement together. Now, it’s very divided. Now you have the them and us. Like, administrators on one side and faculty on the other. Before, it was like this. [intertwines hands] We worked in tandem. Now there’s all these little walls. Before, we didn’t have that. And this was called Palo Alto Community College. You know they dropped what? JT: Community. RC: All of them did. Because they don’t want the community in here. Have you noticed that? “It’s Palo Alto College” “Well why isn’t in Palo Alto Com—“ “No. It’s Palo Alto College.” So this is something we did not want. It was forced on us by administration. They just decided “I’ll take the community out.” And it’s a smart move; you don’t want the community telling you what to do. Just cut them off. But we’ve been fighting to put the community back. The higher-ups didn’t want it.


JT: And what are some of the reasons for that? RC: Control. It’s all based on control. You don’t want parents out there at board meetings. JT: What happened to the other founding faculty members? RC: They retired. They got old, and they retired. JT: So you were one of the younger ones? RC: Yeah. I was one of the young ones. I still am. [laughs] This is what I started. [pulls out small book titled: Palo Alto Review.] JT: Oh you started it?! RC: See: Volume 1, Number 1. 19 what? JT: ’85. RC: I started it. I’m the founder of that. People say “Ralph Castillo is a founding father of Palo Alto.” Yeah, I’m also the founding father of the Palo Alto Review. A lot people don’t know that. JT: And where did y’all get the entries? They’re all students? RC: Those are all my students. All of them. JT: What were some of the bigger changes you’ve seen between now and then? RC: Well slowly, I think what happened to Palo Alto College was— it’s still a good dream but a lot of the decisions about what courses to


be offered slowly were taken away from us. Now it’s the administrators who decide. Like the cosmetology. We weren’t asked about that. What do we want? We want, like, programs that deal with health services. We want a nursing program. Do we have one? No. We want a technology program: robotics. We don’t have that. What do we have? Horticulture. Mowing lawns. Think about it. If I student and I wanted to major in robotics well, “We don’t have that.” Or “I want to major in film.” “Well, we had that but now it’s at SAC.” “Well, what happened?” “Umm… We don’t have monies.” “Well, how come they have monies?” Those are questions that should be asked. But you know what’d I’d ask if I were you? JT: What’s that? RC: What are some of the strengths at Palo Alto College. I’d say art and music. JT: I’m a music major here. RC: See! That’s good! So you know Armin! He played with… JT: Ray Charles. RC: Yeah. Sometimes I’ll be in the car and I’ll here Armin on the radio and say, “Oh! Armin’s on the radio again!” Does SAC have people like that? No. Does St. Phillips? No. JT: What are some changes you’d like to see happen here?


RC: What I would want for Palo Alto for the dream to really come true is a program here for physical therapy, a program here for physician assistant, a program here for nursing, a program here for real forensic science, a program here for a court justice. We should have here in this building [Perdinales]. They were going to have a court room for the criminal justice majors. That would be great for them to have. I would love to have that here. I would love to have a film institute here. “No, no, no. We don’t have the monies.” Why don’t we have the monies? There’s got to be a reason. Cause maybe we’re spending the money on other things that aren’t worth it. Those are the questions for young people to ask. And you know what else I’d do? Students shouldn’t have to pay to park here. It should be free. Why do they have to pay money to print their papers? It didn’t used to be like that. Before that, you could print your papers anytime. All of them. None of this 10 cents each. Why? Because they pay student fees? What does that go to? An ID? These are questions I encourage my students to ask. I encourage them to think critically. Think, analyze, now go out and change it. JT: Do you think you had more control over things like that when you weren’t just a teacher? RC: Well I have some control now because I’m tenured. I’m full professor tenured. There are very few of us that are full professor ten


ured. Very few. I’m at the top. I’m a full professor. I’m not an associate professor. I’m not an assistant professor. I’m not an instructor and I’m not a lecturer. Full professor. And every time you move up, you got to prove yourself. Everyone – including Peter Meyers. And he has. Peter Meyers is tenured. So is Rex Field. There are few of us because the district doesn’t allow tenure anymore. When you don’t allow tenure, you silence the voice. If I didn’t have tenure, I’d be saying right now, “Well, I can’t answer that.” Because what takes over? Fear of losing my job. Just like the students. They’re afraid to ask questions. Why? “What if I get a bad grade?” It’s the same concept. Fear. JT: How would you best describe your 30 years here at Palo Alto College? RC: Here? Great. You know why? Because of the students. I’m here for the students. My number one reason is my students. I love my students. I care about my students. Outside, that’s something else. But here, it’s my students. And everyone asks why I don’t retire. I have no plans on retiring. I’ll retire when I get tired of teaching. But I enjoy it.



Profile for Eleven Rivers Review

Eleven Rivers Review Vol. 1.1 (Spring 2015)  

Palo Alto College Student Arts & Literature

Eleven Rivers Review Vol. 1.1 (Spring 2015)  

Palo Alto College Student Arts & Literature