Tag: Alumni

Galveston College alumni power couple soars to success

Galveston College graduates, Barbara and Ryan Garcia
Graduates: Barbara and Ryan Garcia


For Galveston College graduates, Barbara and Ryan Garcia, the term dynamic duo takes on a whole ‘nother meaning.


Both first-generation college students and Galveston natives, the Garcias participated in the dual-credit program while students at Ball High School. They graduated from Galveston College in 2008, receiving Associate of Arts degrees in general studies.


Barbara, who graduated from Galveston College with highest honors, went on to become a summa cum laude graduate of Texas State University with a Bachelor of Arts in history. She later earned a Master of Business Administration from Western Governors University and now works for a financial planning firm.


Ryan, also an honors graduate, earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Texas State University-San Marcos. He currently serves as an aviator in the U.S. Navy.


Join us in a Q&A as we follow the Garcias journey to success:


Would you please give us some information about your background?

Barbara: I was born and raised in Galveston by a single father in a time when men didn’t usually gain sole custody of their children. I saw the sacrifices he made for me to make sure I had a good life and received a quality education. And for that, I’m forever grateful.


Where did you go to high school?

Barbara: I attended Ball High; just like my dad and his mother before him. Ryan and I even met in at Ball High during sophomore year in Mr. Mason’s art class. Freshman year is where I was first introduced to Galveston College. Through Priscilla Gonzales-Culver and Upward Bound, Galveston College became a second home and a logical next step after high school graduation.


What year did you graduate from high school?

Barbara: I graduated a semester early, but walked with my class in May of 2007.


Did your parents attend college?

Barbara: Neither one of my parents attended college. This is why Upward Bound played such a huge role in my life. My dad always made it clear and set the expectation for college. However, he didn’t know the steps that needed to be taken in order to get there. That’s where Upward Bound came in. From the tutoring, to the mentoring, PSAT/SAT testing, college entrance and financial aid applications, campus visits and cultural experiences, Upward Bound was there to provide support every step of the way. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have known how to navigate any of that without the help of Upward Bound.


What do you do and where do you work?

Barbara:  I work for a financial planning firm as a registered client service associate. What this means is that I’m a licensed financial representative that works with financial advisors and clients to plan for their goals, including college savings plans for children, investments and ultimately retirement. I hold the Series 7 and 66 securities licenses, which allow me to buy and sell stocks, bonds and mutual funds for clients. I also earned my Master of Business Administration in December 2015 from Western Governors University. A typical day on the job means watching the market, developing tailored financial plans, and addressing current needs of each client.


Ryan: I am currently attached to Strike/Fighter Squadron THREE ONE as a pilot in the U.S. Navy, the Tomcatters. I fly the F/A-18E Super Hornet. There really isn’t a “typical day” in the squadron. For my “ground jobs” I am the public affairs officer (PAO) as well as scheduling officer in charge of weekly flight planning. I manage the qualifications, currency and tactical readiness of each pilot in the squadron. Although there are many responsibilities on the ground, my most important job is in the air. I am working on my Strike Fighter Weapons and Tactics syllabus with the focus on becoming a flight lead (meaning I would lead formations of two or four planes). I have flown at 500 miles per hour just 200 feet off the ground, performed aerobatic and tactical maneuvers 20,000+ feet above it, and have landed on an aircraft carrier in pitch-black night.  My days consist of studying, working my ground jobs, and flying anytime in between.


Tell us about your family.

Barbara: Ryan and I have been married for four and a half years and have been together since we were 16 (so 12 ½ years). He’s my best friend, and we’ve grown up together. We even completed driver’s education at the same time We don’t have any two-legged children yet, but our home is full of four-legged ones. Ryan’s parents and my dad still live in the area and we come back to visit whenever we can. Our lives have taken us out of Galveston, but Galveston is still home.


Ryan: I am the youngest of four. My father was a police officer for Galveston Police Department for 30 years and the Port of Galveston Police Department for 10 years. My mother has been working for American National Insurance Company for over 45 years and plans on retiring this year. My oldest brother recently retired from GPD after 20 years of service. My second-oldest brother has been enlisted in the Navy for 16 years, and he lives about 20 minutes from me which is pretty awesome. Lastly, my older sister Lindsay lives on the mainland and works as a cosmetologist at a salon in Galveston.


What do you love about your career?

Barbara: Being a military spouse is hard. We’ve moved four times in four years, have lived in three different states, and have spent quite a bit of time away from family. But this career and the licenses I hold are things that I can take with me, no matter where we move or what our future holds. That amount of stability in a very unstable lifestyle that is the military grounds me and allows me to pursue my own goals and dreams.


Ryan: No surprise, I joined the Navy to fly. It was always a dream of mine. Each mission is different, and each flight is a just as much a learning experience as it is fun. It is a very rewarding career.


How did your education at Galveston College prepare you for the future?

Barbara: Galveston is a small town. It feels even smaller when you live there your entire life. I don’t think I would have been ready for a four-year university right out of high school. On paper, that seems silly. I was in AP classes, in the top 10 percent of my class, and knew from my experiences with Upward Bound that there were many universities both near and far for me to go to. Galveston College provided the perfect solution. I had taken courses through dual credit and could continue at Galveston College without missing a beat. It was close to home, just a few blocks away, and wasn’t going to cause a hardship financially. I’m thankful for my time at Galveston College because I was able to complete the first two years of my undergraduate degree for a fraction of the cost at a university. All of my courses transferred to Texas State and I finished my degree in May of 2010. Galveston College provided the foundation that gave me the confidence and ability to complete my undergraduate degree and is the reason that I even had the opportunity to continue on to graduate school and complete my MBA with Western Governors University.


Ryan: I am the first of my immediate family to get a degree from both a community college as well as a university, although they all have continued their education post high school. I credit the majority of my accomplishments to my wife. We met in our sophomore year of high school and have been together ever since. I didn’t have much guidance on the education process. I knew I what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how. My wife got me in contact with Building Bridges to Success here at Galveston College, a program designed for first-year college students. They made the transition from high school to college very easy and assisted me with the many challenges it presented. They helped me choose classes that were transferrable, they loaned me supplies such as books and pencils, and by far the most memorable was their attention to detail and genuine concern for my success. Their interactions were always personal. Vera Walker, Mary Lee Guthier, Kay Reagan and Priscilla Culver will always hold a special place in my life. Galveston College was the start of my personal and professional development, and I am forever grateful.


Do you have any advice for current and future students?

Barbara: Take it seriously. This is an amazing time in your life. What you’re doing now and the skills you’re learning here are going to benefit you for the rest of your life. Keep pushing forward. When you’re tired and think you can’t study anymore, keep going. Galveston College is a great resource that will help you reach your goals and allow you to achieve things you never thought possible.


Galveston College, thank you.


Ryan: From personal experience, obtaining your goals is never easy. People often talk about “hard work” being the sole reason for success. Although hard work is necessary, it is not the only ingredient for success or reaching your goals. Success is in your behavior, and hard work is the by-product. Achieving your life goals is a long-term process. It’s abstract and often changes. I am never satisfied on where I am, I am very happy, but I know there’s more. Learning never stops. The classes you take, whether technical or general, are all a part of your development. Take them seriously. Have fun, but take them seriously. Ask for help, connect with people who inspire you. I would not be where I am without the help from people who I look up to. Some days will be hard (let’s call it most days) and most of the time you’re doing things you’ve never done before. Sometimes it’s intimidating, but it’s never impossible.



“It’s been an honor to be in both of their lives to witness so many of their milestones,” said Priscilla Culver, student success advisor for dual credit at Galveston College.


For more information about Galveston College and the dual-credit program, contact Culver at pgonzale@gc.edu.

Cosmetology graduate aspires to teach

Ebony Spiller, Cosmetology student at Galveston College

Ebony Spiller has always enjoyed helping others look their best.

As a student at Ball High School in Galveston, she completed the two-year, dual-credit Cosmetology program at Galveston College and, following graduation, earned state of Texas certification as a licensed cosmetologist, as well as licensure in Novalash eyelash extensions.

Born and raised in Galveston, Spiller currently works at the Hotel Galvez and Spa, where she serves as a lash stylist and makeup artist in the salon. She is continuing her studies at Galveston College with the ultimate career goal of becoming a licensed cosmetology instructor.

As the mother of an active one-year-old, Brycen, Spiller said she enjoyed the flexibility of the Cosmetology program at Galveston College.

“I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now if I didn’t have the training from Galveston College.”

She said she especially enjoyed her senior year in the dual-credit Cosmetology program.

“I loved Ms. (Kristin) Harris’ class,” said Spiller. “I want to be able to teach people cosmetology the way Ms. Harris taught me.”

Students in the 1,000-contact-hour, dual-credit Cosmetology program can earn upwards of 42 hours of college credit while at Ball High School. They enroll in courses such as Principles of Cosmetology Design and Color Theory, Introduction to Cosmetology and Cosmetology 1, and Cosmetology 2 and Practicum in Human Services.

Students also can opt to pursue the 320-contact-hour Novalash licensure program, which Spiller took in the evenings with Cosmetology Program Director Sandra Villarreal.

Spiller said her grandmother and her significant other, Marcus, whom she has been dating for four years, have encouraged her to pursue her dreams.

“After my first year in the Cosmetology program, I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue it my senior year,” Spiller said. “My grandmother encouraged me to finish out my senior year of the program. I’m glad she did because I had a chance to meet Ms. Harris and decide that I wanted to teach.”

Spiller is taking general education courses this semester and plans to enroll this fall in the Cosmetology Instructor program at the Galveston College Charlie Thomas Family Applied Technology Center.

“I love what I do. The work and styles are always changing,” she said. “I’m excited to do something that changes the way people look and feel.”

While the dual-credit Cosmetology program for high school students is two years in length, encompassing both junior and senior years, the college-level program is one year in length.

For more information on the Galveston College Cosmetology program, contact Sandra Villarreal at svillarr@gc.edu or (409) 944-1480.

Ebony Spiller, Cosmetology student at Galveston College with her son

Chef Nancy Manlove turns passion for food into culinary career

Chef Nancy ManloveChef Nancy Manlove’s passion for food began at an early age.

Like most young women raised in the South, she and her twin sister spent countless hours in the kitchen learning to prepare the treasured recipes passed down from her mother and grandmother.

“Our mother taught us that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so I’ve always enjoyed home cooking,” said Chef Manlove. “But home cooking is not the same as being a professional chef.”

Chef Manlove found her professional calling to cuisine after retiring from a successful corporate career with United Space Alliance working for NASA.

At age 60, she enrolled in Galveston College to pursue a Culinary Arts degree, graduating first in her class with a 4.0 grade-point average.

Her culinary career began in 2012 at Moody Garden Hotel, Convention Center and Spa under the leadership of award-winning Executive Chef Urs Schmid.

As a Galveston College intern, she worked in banquet and events, where the high-volume garde manger station provided her with a tremendous amount of kitchen experience and insight.

Later, she progressed to a role as a fine-dining pantry chef at the four-diamond and Trip Adviser Award of Excellence rated restaurant Shearn’s Prime Steaks and Seafood.

Known for her leadership, public speaking and fundraising abilities honed from years in the corporate sector, Chef Manlove now serves as chef de cuisine at eculent, a modern farm-to-table restaurant in Kemah, Texas, under the creative direction and leadership of culinary artist David Skinner.

The two have formed a high-end catering company and have begun production of their “Two the Table” TV cooking show.

While a student, Chef Manlove also became intrigued with competitive cooking and recipe contests.

In 2015, she won an episode of the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” and, in 2017, she was a finalist on “Food Network Star.”

Chef Manlove attributes much of her success to the skills and knowledge she received in the Culinary Arts program at Galveston College.

“Attending the program at Galveston College meant learning the art and science of the culinary experience,” Chef Manlove said. “I still make many of the dishes I learned to make as a student – such as garlic soup.”

Chef Manlove says her culinary career has provided her with a wide range of opportunities. She won a trip to Italy in a contest sponsored by Barilla Pasta, where she will have an opportunity to see actual recipes that pre-date Christ.

Her favorite food is steak – whether it’s a classic filet mignon with béarnaise sauce or the traditional Steak Diane. She also has an affinity for international cooking.

“I also love fried chicken – traditional Southern dishes … food that I learned to make as a teenager,” she said.

Chef Manlove encourages prospective culinarians to visit Galveston College and meet with Chef Paul Mendoza, director of the Culinary Arts program.

“There are so many opportunities for students interested in a career in culinary arts,” she said. “You don’t have to spend all of your time in the kitchen. There are careers as food stylists, bloggers and food reviewers and in areas such as competitive cooking. The sky is the limit for those who want to work hard and pursue certifications.”

For more information on the Galveston College Culinary Arts program, contact Chef Paul Mendoza at pmendoza@gc.edu.

Chef Nancy Manlove in the kitchen