VC was starting point for family’s higher education

Villafrancas2 Villafranca siblings, from left, Roseanna, James and Deborah were first-generation college students at Victoria College.

Roseanna Villafranca had no interest in continuing her education past high school.

“I didn’t want to go to college, period,” said the oldest of six siblings. “I just wanted to be at home.”

But after urging from her parents, John Manuel and Lorence, Roseanna wound up attending Victoria College in 1968-70 before transferring to then Texas A&I University in Kingsville, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education.

Not only did her decision to attend Victoria College lead Roseanna to a 42-year teaching career, it encouraged her younger brothers and sisters to follow in her footsteps.

“If I could do it, they knew they could do it, too,” Roseanna said.

Brothers Tali, Glenn and James and sister Deborah Escalante joined Roseanna as first-generation college students. James and Deborah also began their higher education journeys at Victoria College as did their spouses. James attended VC in 1977 before transferring to the Texas A&M University, and Deborah was at VC from 1978-80 before following her brother to Aggieland.

“I wanted to go off somewhere else to college, but my father didn’t think I was mature enough,” Deborah said. “I didn’t think I was immature at the time, but I was. I wound up really enjoying Victoria College because a lot of my friends from St. Joseph High School were at VC. It was like an extension of St. Joseph in a lot of ways.”

All the Villafranca children managed to excel in academics while working for their father at Club Westerner, a local dance hall and Victoria landmark since 1927.

“My dad started having dances there on Sunday afternoons in 1956, and the owner finally convinced him to buy the place in 1965,” James said.

Club Westerner has hosted such legendary musicians as Louie Armstrong and Willie Nelson. Moving Sidewalks, a rock band from Houston, regularly played at Club Westerner before changing its name to ZZ Top.

“The Westerner was truly family and was my Mom’s and Dad’s dream,” James said. “But they knew it wasn’t our dream, so they encouraged us to go to college.”

For Roseanna, the first of the Villafrancas to attend Victoria College, the adjustment to college wasn’t easy at first.

“I had a hard time, so I had to study really hard,” said Roseanna, who holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Houston-Victoria. “Victoria College helped me gain the study skills I needed. I passed on those study skills I learned here at VC to my students during my teaching career.”

James graduated from Texas A&M with a Bachelor of Science degree with a specialization in range science and retired two years ago after a 36-year career in the laboratories at DuPont.

“My job required strict discipline with the type of analysis we ran for my production unit,” James said. “Everything was very precise. What I learned at Victoria College prepared me for that.”

Deborah recalls a career test she took at Victoria College that suggested a profession she should pursue.

“It identified your personality to see where you should go in the workforce,” Deborah said. “It told me I was good working with people and I should consider banking. I didn’t agree with it. I thought banking was kind of stuffy.”

However, after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in business management at Texas A&M, Deborah has been in the banking industry for 37 years and currently works as the lobby supervisor at Prosperity Bank.

“We hire young people all the time, and I always tell them, ‘Go to VC. Get your education. Get your basics. VC will prepare you for so many things in life,’ ” Deborah said.

The Villafrancas said they see Victoria College’s impact continuing to grow as it meets the needs of a diverse community.

“Victoria College provides an education for all genres, all economic backgrounds,” Deborah said. “Victoria College opens the doors to opportunity for everyone in Victoria. People need to take advantage of that.”