PHARR, Texas – Vanguard Academy has been awarded T-STEM designation by the Texas Education Agency.

This will intrigue many because the open-enrollment charter school, which has seven campuses in the cities of Pharr, Alamo, and Edinburg, is primarily known as a fine arts institution.

In the above podcast, Dr. Narciso Garcia, superintendent of Vanguard, explains why he sought a T-STEM (Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Academy designation.

Dr. Narciso Garcia

“A couple of years ago we were designated as an early college. This provided huge opportunities to our students, allowing them to graduate with an associate degree or a certification through South Texas College. South Texas College is such a great partner with Vanguard Academy. We would not be where we are without South Texas College,” Garcia said.

“Last year there was a grant that became available, a T-STEM grant. We wanted to apply so we could give even more support to our early college students in the areas of STEM. So, a cohort of students become T-STEM students.”

In addition to the designation, TEA gave $50,000 to train Vanguard’s staff. “So, in June, some of our teachers to visit three schools in San Diego known as High Tech High. It is one of the best high schools in the nation.”

Garcia said that when he visited with TEA officials they made it clear that they wanted to do things differently than before. “They said they want it to be K-Thru-12, which is phenomenal.”

Vanguard Academy has almost 5,000 students. Of these, around 1,200 are in high school. The charter school will soon be celebrating its 20th Anniversary.

TEA defines T-STEM academies as “rigorous secondary schools focusing on improving instruction and academic performance in science and mathematics-related subjects and increasing the number of students who study and enter STEM careers.”

T-STEM academies:

  • Provide dual credit at no cost to students
  • Offer rigorous instruction and accelerated courses
  • Provide academic and social support services to help students succeed
  • Increase college readiness
  • Reduce barriers to college access
  • Align to regional workforce needs for ICIA, P-TECH, and T-STEM models

TEA says campuses awarded T-STEM designation are provided technical assistance and professional development to ensure implementation of a T-STEM blueprint with fidelity.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Dr. Narciso Garcia, superintendent of Vanguard Academy, and Steve Taylor, editor of the Rio Grande Guardian.