HCC VAST Academy

Vocational Advancement and Skills Training

HCC VAST Academy LogoVAST Academy provides post-secondary transition programs and comprehensive support services, which lead to meaningful credentials, employment and independence for differently-abled individuals. Opportunities include vocational certificates, pre-college and freshman success bridge courses, career readiness credentials, internships and employment assistance offered through an inclusive, relevant and affordable avenue.

About Us

Advisory Committee

VAST Academy Advisory Committee Members:

Shelley Townsend
Co-Chair VAST Advisory Committee


Michael Biasini
Co-Chair VAST Advisory Committee


Dr. Adria Baker
Associate Vice Provost for International Education
Executive Director, Office of International Students & Scholars


David Cross, Director
HCC Institutional Equity, Diversity & Inclusion


Michelle Howard
Herbein, Executive Director- Summer House


Andrew Hardwick
Public Affairs Specialist, Social Security Administration


Janniece Sleigh
Executive Director-The Arc of Greater Houston


Shelley Townsend
Program Director & Family Partner


University of Houston
Parent Education Project-Families CAN


Michael Biasini
Parent Advocate

Cheryl Guido
Texas Workforce Solutions, Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Charles Kerlegon
The Center

Diego Gutierrez
Disability Advocate/Parent


Ellen Goudeau
Ex Officio Commissioner for People With Disabilties

Jan Stailey
Executive Director,The Rise School of Houston

Maria Straus
HCC Dean of College Readiness

Maria Town
Executive Director/City of Houston Mayor's Office for Persons With Disabilities

Susan Hurta
Houston Independent School District


Community Partners

Community, Employer Partners and Donors:

Arena Energy, Donor

Assistance League of Houston, Scholarship Donor

Catholic Daughters, Scholarship Donor

Easter Seals, Community Partner and Scholarship Donor

Hampton Inn, Employer Partner

Houston ISD, Community Partner

Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Employer Partner

MD Anderson, Employer Partner

Shriner's Hospital, Employer Partner

Spring-Branch ISD, Community and Employer Partner

Texas Children's Hospital, Employer Partner

Texas Workforce Commission-Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Community Partner

The Rise School of Houston, Employer Partner

T.I.R.R., Employer Partner

Trustee Glaser Family Foundation Endowment, Scholarship Donor

The Center, Community Partner

Memorial Assistance Ministry (MAM), Community Employer Partner

UT Health LEND Program, Community Partner



Eagles Club

The VAST Academy Eagles Club remains one of the most active student organizations on campus, hosting numerous campus-wide events and community service projects each year.

Student leaders are recognized each year at annual college award ceremonies. Some have received "Student Leader of the Year," awards/scholarships and Eagles Club has been awarded "Student Organization oft he Year," numerous times.

Central Advisor: Sue Moraska, sue.moraska@hccs.edu, NW-SpringBranch Advisor: Ruth Wilson, ruth.wilson@hccs.edu


Grant Information

Department of Education Grants $2.5M to HCC VAST Program

Benefiting Students, Faculty and Community

HOUSTON, TX (October 7, 2010) – Houston Community College is receiving approximately $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education for its Vocational Advancement and Social Skills Training Department (VAST). HCC is the only institution of higher education in Texas and one of only five community colleges in the nation to receive the D.O.E. grant. In concert with President Obama’s “goal for America to have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by 2020,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the award of $10.9 million for 27 grants that create opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to attend and be successful in higher education.

The VAST program is based at HCC’s Central College located Midtown. HCC Central will use the grant to extend the capacity of the VAST comprehensive transition and postsecondary program to serve more students, therefore, the services will become more accessible and convenient to the population it serves. With an array of certificate programs, college-based courses and formalized technical assistance, enrollment is anticipated to grow by 80 percent. The grant will also yield the design and implementation of an evaluation system which can guide program enhancement.

Dr. Mary Spangler, Chancellor of Houston Community College, enlisted HCC as a member of the Community College Consortium on Autism and Intellectual Disabilities. The federal government tapped 27 members from this consortium across 23 states as grantees.

“Recognizing the vital importance of educating all of our communities, this consortium is an important partnership for HCC. And through that partnership and this extraordinary grant, we will be able to serve more students and help them lead productive lives,” Dr. Spangler said.

The fit for HCC’s VAST Program to receive the D.O.E. “Transition Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID)” grant is natural considering its history. Sue Moraska, Program Director and TPSID grant principal, created VAST almost 20 years ago. HCC Central VAST currently serves 400 students per year and offers 38 courses of study which result in 2 certificate awards. HCC’s VAST program will be able to add additional certificate programs each year of the grant funding cycle with a capacity to serve 700 students per year, and approximately 3500 in the total five-year cycle.

“The development of academic proficiency, employment skills and self advocacy resulting from this grant is exciting and will benefit a significant number of individuals with intellectual disabilities,” stated Central College President Dr. William W. Harmon.
Recent VAST graduates include Breana Stewart, sister to Miss USA Crystle Stewart, Hollywood Actor Christopher Scott from “My Brother,” and Nolan Landry, currently employed in Campus Management.



Houston Community College’s VAST Academy would like to partner with your company to expand employment and internship opportunities for our students. The VAST Academy provides comprehensive certificate programs in Office Skills and Occupational Skills to individuals that prefer or benefit from a personalized training format. Our students are trained on software programs that are in demand in the business sector such as: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. In addition to training in Microsoft Office, our students are trained in Customer Service, Records Management, Business Etiquette and Business Communication.

At the VAST Academy we value partnerships with the business community and community based organizations. Contact us at 713-718-2524 to discuss partnership opportunities or complete the VAST_Job_Posting_form.


Internship Requirements

Houston Community College’s VAST Academy provides internship opportunities to eligible students teaching workforce soft skills opportunities to job ready students. The goal of the internship learning experience is to transition the academia taught in the classroom to the work environments. The expectation is that eligible students gain meaningful work skills through their exposure to work environment, leadership styles and to provide the student with the confidence and workforce skills to obtain/maintain long-term employment.

We believe that internships are an essential to learning process for students with intellectual disabilities. Internships allow students to practice and strengthen workforce soft skills. Internships offer opportunities for mentorship and networking, and broads a student’s ability to independently look for work after the internship has ended. We provide internships in an array of business settings to provide eligible students with the opportunity to learn basic soft skills that are applicable to world of work. Internships are designed to meet the individual interest area of the students and not necessarily a reflection of the courses completed.


  • Students must demonstrate a desire to participate in an internship.
  • Student must demonstrate the ability to work independently
  • Student must NOT exhibit or demonstrate behavior issues in the classroom or school sponsored field trips. Behavior issues are defined as: any display of inappropriate behavior or the inability to follow instructions.
  • Students must complete the courses noted below prior to starting the internship:
    • Work Etiquette
    • Career Exploration
    • Job Search & Employment Skills
    • Introduction to Customer Service
    • Career Readiness
  • Students should have sufficient maturity to learn from the experience
  • Students must have transportation to and from work

Requirements for Internship

  • Students must have a resume prepared
  • Student must enroll in the Internship class prior to starting at the job site. Student must submit a copy of the paid fee receipt to the Director of Employment Services
  • The student must complete “My Next Move” career exploration tool located at www.mynextmove.com. The Student must submit a copy of the report with his/her Internship Interest Profile to the Director of Employment Services
  • Complete the Internship Interest Form and submit it to the Director of Employment Services
  • Read and sign the – agreement form.
  • Parent or Guardian must sign the internship agreement.
  • Agree to report to work as scheduled.
  • Record time and attendance on the time card provided Houston Community College.
  • Attend the Friday Internship class to enhance work base learning.

Expectations for Internship

  • The internship should be related to the student's career goals.
  • Student will gain meaningful work experience.
  • Student will update his/her resume during/at the end of the internship to include internship experience.
  • Student, student’s family in concert with HCC staff will look for employment opportunities for the student.

The VAST Program Director or Director of Employment Services reserves the right to move a student with prior work experience into an internship prior to completion of the courses noted above, if an employer expresses a need for a trainee and the student has demonstrated the occupational skills to meet that workforce training needed.


Our Mission

VAST Academy provides post-secondary transition programs and comprehensive support services, which lead to meaningful credentials, employment t and independence for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Opportunities include vocational certificates, precollege and freshman success bridge courses, career readiness credentials, internships and employment assistance offered through an inclusive, relevant and affordable avenue.

VAST Academy will be:

A post-secondary, “affordable” program of choice, for “differently abled” individuals seeking workforce certificates and academic advancement, leading to professional careers, employment and independence.
Known for its innovative and “cutting-edge” programs, certificates and technology.
An integral part of the economic and educational life of the community through its collaborative partnerships.
A technical resource model, sharing best practices with community colleges and institutions seeking to develop similar model programs

VAST Academy affirms these Values:

  • Integrity
  • Mutual Respect
  • Trust
  • Teamwork
  • Enthusiasm


Credentials offered

IOccupational Skills/Career Readiness Certificate
The Occupational Skills Certificate Program is a two-year career readiness workforce credential, offering courses that enhance functional reading, math and writing. Students develop basic computer/financial literacy and
human relations skills for the workplace.

Office Skills Training
The Office Skills Training Certificate Program offers customized training to students with disabilities to prepare students to work in an office environment. Students are trained for entry-level positions in the following areas: office assistants, receptionist, filing and mail clerks.

Retail Training
This two-term course prepares students for a job in the retail field. Students learn a range of technical, practical and organizational skills valued in the workplace and society. Classroom instruction is offered through an online component and a supervised hands-on workplace
experience with a local employer.

Work-Keys Career Readiness Credential
This instructor lead course and online training module prepares students to receive the American College Testing (ACT) Work-keys Career Readiness Credential. This job skills assessment system helps employers elect, hire, train,
Develop and retain a high performing workforce. More than 2.3 million people in the United States earn this valuable credential.

Support Services
Students receive assistance through a “person centered planning” approach with identifying realistic career goals by developing a vocational degree plan and participating in an internship following the completion of required coursework. Job placement assistance is offered upon successful completion The program’s successful supportive strategies include:

  • Peer mentoring and Tutoring
  • Career counseling and advising
  • Self-Advocacy Training
  • Transition and Employment Services
  • Internships based on students’ interests and skills.


Contact Us

Sue Moraska
Program Director, VAST Academy
1301 Alabama 101b
Houston, Tx 77004

Ana Calvo-Program Director
VAST Transition Services
1301 Alabama 101
Houston, TX 77004

Sandra Pierce- Program Director
VAST Employment Services
1301 Alabama 101
Houston, TX 77004

Central Campus:
Barbara Fields- Program Director
VAST Admissions/Counseling Services
1301 Alabama, 101c
Houston, TX 77004

Sue Moraska, Program Director
1010 W. Sam Houston Parkway. North
Houston, TX 77043

Francine Melton-Bryant- Program Director
10041 Cash Rd.
Stafford TX, 77477