MISSION, RGV – Of 230-plus programs across the nation that were recognized by the White House as “Bright Spots in Hispanic Education,” only one was crafted by an economic development corporation.
Mission EDC was lauded for its Code the Town project by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. As a Bright Spot, Mission EDC will be part of a national online catalog that highlights programs that invest in key education priorities for Hispanics including early learning, college access, STEM education, post-secondary completion and Latino teacher recruitment.
According to the Initiative, one in four students in U.S. public schools is a Hispanic youth. In just the next few decades, Hispanics will represent nearly one in three American workers.
In a news release, Mission EDC said coding skills, digital literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education are “crucial components” for job growth across the United States. Recognizing the need for educational and workforce development opportunities in the Texas Rio Grande Valley region, the Mission Economic Development Corporation, invited strategic local partners, Sylvan Learning and Border Kids Code, to join in creating Code the Town, the news release stated.
“Code the Town was launched in the fall of 2014 as an initiative that provides students and teachers with knowledge in the specialized technology skills so critical in today’s classrooms and workplaces. Code the Town represents a public/private partnership that is unique to the Mission community, and the project is setting the pace for innovative alliances that can drive educational and economic progress in communities nationwide,” the news release states.
Rio Grande Valley recognized
The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics was established in 1990 to address the educational disparities faced by the Hispanic community. Of the 230-plus programs recognized this year, nine are from Hidalgo County. They are:
Easter Seals Rio Grande Valley – McAllen, Texas – Early Learning, Family Engagement
South Texas College of Early College – McAllen, Texas – STEM High School Program
IDEA Public Schools – Weslaco, Texas – K-12 and College Access
Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD – Pharr, Texas – Latino Teacher Recruitment
South Texas College Early College High School Program – McAllen, Texas – K-12 and College Access
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley – Edinburg, Texas – Postsecondary Completion; STEM
VIDA (Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement) – Mercedes, Texas – K-12 and College Access; Postsecondary Completion
Weslaco ISD – Weslaco, Texas – Early Learning 0-3 Weslaco Reads Program
Code the Town – Mission, Texas – STEM
“It is an outstanding achievement to have so many ‘Bright Spots’ named in Hidalgo County,” said U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa. “It is an example of how well focused and how determined our educators are in creating better opportunities for better education for our students. Today, nearly one in four students in our nation’s public schools is a Hispanic youth. The fact that so many in our area qualified for this highly competitive achievement, tells us all that we are moving in the right direction when it comes to educating our students. I congratulated every educator who is making dreams come true for our students of all ages.”
Alejandra Ceja, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics., said the Bright Spots in Hispanic Education national online catalog features over 230 programs, models, organizations and initiatives that are supporting and investing in the educational attainment of Hispanics, from cradle-to-career. Ceja said the Initiative, which began 25 years ago, seeks to leverage these Bright Spots to encourage collaboration between stakeholders focused on similar issues in sharing data-driven approaches, promising practices, peer advice, and effective partnerships, ultimately resulting in increased support for the educational attainment of the Hispanic community.
“There has been notable progress in Hispanic educational achievement, and it is due to the efforts of these Bright Spots in Hispanic Education, programs and organizations working throughout the country to help Hispanic students reach their full potential,” said Ceja, at the Sept. 15 launch of Hispanic Heritage Month and in honor of the Initiative’s 25th anniversary in Washington, D.C.
UT-Rio Grande Valley
Two UTRGV initiatives were singled out for praise: UTRGV’s Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) program, and the way UTRGV has institutionalized research and experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students under the direction of Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UTRGV provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs.
Veronica Gonzales, UTRGV vice president for governmental and community relations, said that since HESTEC began more than a decade ago, the program has reached more than 7,700 educators, more than 37,000 students, about 2,000 college students each year at the Career Expo, and an estimated 50,000 people annually at Community Day.
“To have HESTEC recognized as a Bright Spot in Hispanic Education speaks volumes about the significant imprint this program has made in higher education and across STEM fields,” Gonzales said.
“UTRGV thanks its many partners whose support has made HESTEC possible through the years, and especially thanks the program’s founders, including Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, who continues to stay heavily involved with the program.”
Hinojosa and then UT-Pan American President Miguel A. Nevárez started HESTEC 14 years ago.
“HESTEC, under the direction of UTRGV, remains a shining example of what can be achieved through educational programs for Latinos and Latinas. Fourteen years ago, Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez and I had a vision of preparing our students to be ready for 21st century careers. We wanted to invest in the education attainment of Hispanics from cradle to career,” Hinojosa said.
“With the support of leading organizations and communities around our nation, we concentrated our efforts on Hispanic education, particularly in the advancement in the STEM fields of science, technology, education and math. Today, our students are finding many opportunities to excel in their studies and advance their careers. Obtaining a place in the highly esteemed White House ‘Bright Spots in Hispanic Education National Online Catalog’ is truly an honor, well-deserved and makes us very proud of HESTEC’s continuing achievements and record of excellence.”
This year’s HESTEC will be held Oct. 4-10 on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus. Gonzales said HESTEC 2015’s theme is ‘Change the World through STEM.’
Dr. Marie Mora, UTRGV professor in the Department of Economics and Finance, nominated Rodríguez for the Bright Spot distinction. She said Rodríguez played a key role in establishing numerous educational opportunities and programs for students and underrepresented groups, including:
· The Office of Undergraduate Research and Service, which provides opportunities for students to participate in experiential learning through mentored research and curriculum-related community service.
· The Center of Excellence in STEM Education, which provides activities to strengthen STEM academic programs and increase the number of STEM graduates, particularly those from underrepresented groups.
· UTeach, a four-year teacher preparation program for science and math majors, modeled after the nationally recognized program established at The University of Texas at Austin in 1997.
· ADVANCE, funded by the National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant and created to increase the representation and advancement of women in STEM fields across faculty and leadership ranks, with a special focus on Latinas.
Mora said these programs were established when Rodríguez served as UTPA provost and vice president for Academic Affairs and president ad interim of the legacy institution.
“These types of experiences clearly focus on the educational success of our students, and on expanding their educational opportunities –two critical goals for UTRGV,” Rodríguez said.
“As an institution of higher education, we must promote excellence in everything that we do. The recognition by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics clearly shows we are heading in the right direction.”
PSJA ISD’s College3 initiative gives students the opportunity to graduate “College Ready, College Connected and College Complete.” It has been recognized as a ‘Bright Spot in Hispanic Education’ by the White House.
PSJA Superintendent Dr. Daniel King said that to date, hundreds of students have graduated from PSJA ISD high schools with up to two years of college hours, a college certificate or even an Associate’s Degree from partner South Texas College. King said this early advancement is helping them complete a four-year degree faster, saving time and money.
“We thank the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for this honor,” King said. “Our goal is to provide the best educational opportunities for our students and by increasing their level of educational attainment they are more likely to have a prosperous and successful future.”
VIDA was recognized for K-12 and College Access and Postsecondary Completion
“There has been notable progress in Hispanic educational achievement, and it is due to the efforts of these Bright Spots in Hispanic Education, programs and organizations working throughout the country to help Hispanic students reach their full potential,” said VIDA’s board chairman Eduardo Anaya.
South Texas College
South Texas College’s Early College High School Programs were recognized as a Bright Spot in Hispanic Education by White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Working with local school districts, STC has 30 Early College High Schools in Hidalgo and Starr counties.
AVANCE, which works with various entities in the Valley, was also named a Bright Spot by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
“It is an honor to be named among such notable organizations around the United States,” said AVANCE President and CEO Rick Noriega. “I’ve been quoted as saying ‘as Latino children go, so goes the future of this nation’. AVANCE understands the urgency in early intervention and investing in quality educational programming for Hispanics. AVANCE lives the mission of Unlocking America’s Potential by strengthening families through parent education and support programs.”
To learn more about the Initiative and to view the Bright Spots in Hispanic Education national online catalog, visit http://www.ed.gov/HispanicInitiative.