HARLINGEN, RGV – Harlingen CISD Superintendent Art Cavazos has boldly predicted that a unique partnership between his school district, UT-Rio Grande Valley and the City of Harlingen will “transform” the city and potentially become a state model.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey said the same partnership will help UTRGV become a university for the entire Valley.  

Representatives from the city, the school district and the university, announced the partnership at HCISD on Thursday. They said a new UTRGV-Harlingen CISD Early College High School campus is expected to open in 2021. 

Cavazos said the campus will be the new housing site for hundreds of Early College High School students. Bailey said the partnership might be referred to as Phase 1 for UTRGV’s baccalaureate programming presence in Harlingen.

“In Harlingen, we are committed to putting students at the front of the line of opportunities,” Cavazos said. “This project defines the goals we have set for not only our district, but for our community and generations of college-bound students to come. I could not think of a better time or a better place for this to happen.”

The goal is that through a partnership with an accredited university, ECHS students will be able to graduate high school with their academic core or be on a fast track towards careers in engineering, computer science, and education. By selecting collegiate pathways they are passionate about, students will save time and money while developing successful study habits.

Greg Powers, president of Harlingen CISD’s board of trustees gave an in-depth interview to the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM about the new partnership.

“This is just an incredible opportunity for our school district. We are tickled to death and so proud they (UTRGV) selected our district,” Powers said.

“With this partnership we are creating a brand new campus, a brand new high school. We have an early college high school, we are moving that to our new facility. In addition to that, this partnership will provide core college courses for juniors and seniors. We are also creating three new academies that we have not had before in this new high school. They will be for aspiring teachers, engineering, and computer science.”

Powers said HCISD students at the new school will be taking courses that freshmen college students take. 

“This will enable them, if they meet certain criteria, to have an automatic admittance or pathway to UTRGV. It is going to be a great opportunity. It will be a great opportunity for teachers because we get to bring students in that want to go into the teaching profession. They can get a head start into the education department at UTRGV. We are hoping they will come back to our district and teach our kids.”

Powers also explained how UTRGV is growing its footprint in Harlingen.

“UTRGV will be holding their own college classes there in the evening. So, it offers people who live in our area an opportunity where they do not have to commute. They can take the classes here. These classes will be taught by the professors at UTRGV, not by Skype. They will be in our classroom teaching our courses to our students.”

Powers added: “It is a phenomenal opportunity for our district.”

HCISD Superintendent Cavazos also gave the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM an in-depth interview.

“Today is an amazing day for Harlingen CISD. We have solidified a model that brings Public Ed and the university together to build a state-of-the-art campus here in Harlingen, Texas. This has the potential of being a state model,” Cavazos said.

Regarding the three new academies, for aspiring teachers, engineering, and computer science, Cavazos said: “Think about those professions and the impact that those children can have in our very complex world.”

Cavazos said HCISD is “super excited” to be allowed to work hand in hand with the university to provide quality opportunities for our kids. 

“At the end of the day we want our students to be at the front of the line for opportunities, not at the back of the line. That will only be possible if the adults come together and create this synergy and these opportunities for kids. Think about how this is going to transform the city of Harlingen. We are appreciative of the city, working together with UTRGV to provide the land for this new campus.”

Cavazos said he tells people that this a moment in time that is going to create a movement. 

“It is only the beginning. Think about the poverty cycles that will be be broken in our community, think about the children that will be educated in a state of the art campus, that will be allowed to go out and flourish and solve complex problems in our country and in our world,” Cavazos said.

“We know we will be educating the next Noble peace prize winner. We know the kids don’t have barriers, it is the adults that put up ceilings. So, we want this to be a broken ceiling for the kids. Go and do what they are discovering their passion to be. It is a great day for Harlingen CISD.”

Asked if students at the new campus will be taught social skills, Cavazos answered affirmatively.

“This campus will be grounded in our 4xC’s model: we expect our programming and our instruction to be grounded on kids being able to communicate; to collaborate; to think critically, and be creative. It is in those four C’s that the kids will develop the soft skills needed to persist in their post-secondary eduction.”

Cavazos added: “We are known here in Harlingen for this: that we will reach, we will aspire and we will dare to be, because we are HCISD.”

UTRGV’s Bailey said Early College High School students will receive an authentic college learning experience. Under the guidance of UTRGV professors, he said, ECHS students will be able to earn up to 60 hours of college credit by the time they graduate high school.

“We want UTRGV to be a university for the entire valley, and our partnership with Harlingen CISD is a great example of that,” Bailey said. “We are excited about expanding our partnership with the Early College High School, and we look forward to other collaborations that will benefit Harlingen students and their families.

Bailey added that UTRGV is working with the City of Harlingen to secure the building site of the campus, featuring classroom space and teaching labs. Most likely, the site will be near Harlingen’s medical district.

“A prosperous community is one that works together,” said Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell. “In Harlingen, we unite to support the youth of our community and equip them with the skills they need to be successful, which is in keeping with HCISD’s commitment to graduate students college, career, and community ready.”