RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – South Texas College is fulfilling its mission in Starr County and having its campus in one location, on the western end of Rio Grande City, helps.

This is the view of STC Board President Rose Benavidez, a resident of Starr County.

Speaking on a webinar hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Benavidez was asked by the chamber’s president, Cynthia Sakulenzki, if STC has a Roma campus.

Benavidez responded: “That is a sore subject. It (the campus in Rio Grande City) is a Starr County campus. We worked really hard to find a location that was central to the community.”

Benavidez continued: “We wanted to ensure that everyone going to our college had the best college-going experience. And the way to do that, we found very quickly, was finding a way to grow a campus in one location that had every single support service that our accreditation partners required of us.”

As a result of this approach, Benavidez said, students that go to the Starr County campus have access to a lot more than just a classroom. 

“It’s about having the support services for financial aid for counseling, advising. And the way to have that in manpower and both human capital and actual brick and mortar is by investing in as much as we could in that campus.”

Benavidez is president of Starr County Industrial Foundation. She acknowledged she might not be neutral when it comes to judging the beauty of the Starr County campus. 

“You know, I might be a little bit biased but for me the Starr County campus is the most beautiful aesthetically and has the best people working there. Our employees are second to none. Our faculty is is above reproach and superb throughout our six campuses,” Benavidez said.

 “We have been working really hard to give Starr County a campus that creates a location where it is not only about getting a better education, but also about being convenient, because it is close to home.”

Benavidez said STC strives to ensure students attending the Starr County campus have access to all the services on offer at the biggest STC campus, the Pecan Campus in McAllen. Or, indeed at any of the college’s specialty campuses, such as the technology campus, the nursing and allied health campus, both in McAllen, and the public safety campus, located in Pharr.

Benavidez said the Mid Valley campus strives to offer the same convenience and quality curriculum for those living in eastern Hidalgo County. 

“Our Weslaco campus serves as the main campus for that entire area. So it was intentional. And the fact that we have one campus representing our community only tells us that for us to be able to be a place where people want to go, it has to have the best of both worlds in terms of convenience and curriculum.”

Benavidez believes there has never been a better time to go to a community college in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Right now we graduate thousands of residents in our community that in any other world it time, just going to college would not have been in their plans, much less a reality. So we’re extremely proud of having a presence in Starr County.”

Benavidez said she gets “kidded and picked on a lot” because she is such a “fierce advocate” for her community. She said she is all about getting everything local students deserve. 

“It is my responsibility (to secure those services) and really I owe it to the community that helped create the college, that has been a staunch such supporter every time that we’ve come to them and asked for their help in bond elections.”

Sakulenzki asked how many students attend STC’s Starr County campus. Benavidez said the numbers did drop, as they did elsewhere, during the coronavirus pandemic.

“About 2,000 to 2,500 students from Starr County register,” Benavidez said. 

But, she said, some students may be required to attend one of the speciality campuses for part of their education. 

“There are specialty programs that may require that you do either part or some of that programming at either the tech campus, if you’re doing anything related to technology, or at the nursing campus, which has, as you know, one of the best nursing programs in the state and in the country. Then you have to go to our nursing and allied health campus in McAllen.”

However, Benavidez was quick to point out, STC offers free busing between campuses for students.

“We have found a way to get free transportation for students that need to do that. And Valley Metro is a partner of ours for that programming,” Benavidez said.

“But, quite frankly, right now, just knowing that every semester almost 3,000 of our residents are going through some kind of training, whether that is to help them on their career path or to follow their academic dreams, then I think the campus is absolutely doing what it was intended to.”

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