MCALLEN, RGV – Over 300 people attended PSJA ISD’s “College for All” Conference to learn more about the district’s success of the Early College program, the Pathways Toward Independence program, Dropout Recovery, as well as Dual Language and Parent Engagement initiatives.
Daniel P. King, superintendent of PSJA ISD, said the district began getting visitors around 2008 or 2009 because of their dropout recovery work. Since then, PSJA expanded their early college high school and the number of visitors throughout the year increased.
“We were getting visited from 80 to 90 different institutions and organization all throughout the year and it was becoming very difficult for us to manage all of that,” King said. “Greater Texas Foundation out of Dallas gave us a grant to get this conference concept started. So the idea for this conference is to try and answer all the questions we normally get during the conference sessions.”
The educators came from about ten different states such as Hawaii, New York, California, Ohio and Mississippi. The attendees learned from over 55 informative sessions and heard several testimonies from a range of students such as those who have dropped out and returned to school, received their doctorate degree or struggled through school due to mental conditions such as autism.
“They’re all here to really work together on the idea of really dramatically increasing the amount of young people that go on to complete certificates, associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees and postgraduate degrees from college and university,” King said.
One testimony includes Stephanie Martinez, a Clinical Pharmacist who received her doctorate degree by the age of 23.
“The opportunities from the school district helped jumpstart my career,” Martinez, the PSJA North High School 2008 graduate said. “My journey has been a success, but it’s not over yet.”
The conference also featured one of PSJA’s newer initiatives, Pathways Toward Independence (PTI). The district is partnered with South Texas College (STC) to work with students who face major challenges such as those with down syndrome.
King said the program recreated a life skills classroom where there is a house sitting on an acre of land for students to practice independent living.
“Just in the few months we’ve had that going, we’ve seen them spark,” King said. “We try to find out how we can help them move towards independence and find a career that matches their interest. We want every young person to have a rich and fulfilling life and we want to make sure we develop all of our students to their potential.”
PSJA ISD are partnered with STC, Educate Texas, Jobs for the Future, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, RGV Focus, Equal Voice Network and IDRA based in San Antonio.
“I don’t think in today’s world we can’t get very far without collaboration,” King said. “So really it’s all of us together–three cities, the City of Pharr, the City of San Juan and the City of Alamo. We have tremendous partnerships with all of them. This is really about everyone working together because the young people are our future. And the quality of our future is going to depend on how well prepared they are.”