A Foundation for Learning

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The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the City of Harlingen, and the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District recently hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the new UTRGV Early College High School.

The ceremony took place on the school’s future site, a 6.3-acre tract of land on Medical Drive in Harlingen. UTRGV President Dr. Guy Bailey began the groundbreaking ceremony with an acknowledgment of the current times.

“It’s been an interesting few months we’ve come through,” he said as he stood in front of the construction site. “Well, if you look behind me, you can see in spite of everything, in spite of a pandemic and an economic recession, we haven’t missed a beat here. We are here today to celebrate the UTRGV/HCISD high school. This project will really transform education. Students will get a head start on some of the best careers.”

Breaking ground on the property marked a historical moment for the entire community.

“The ability to have secondary and post-secondary university presence here in our community is really a game-changer for the city of Harlingen,” Mayor Chris Boswell said. “It brings us an entirely new level of opportunity for our young people to access higher education. It’s going to be a beautiful, wonderful thing for us for decades and beyond that.”

HCISD Board President Eladio Jaimez spoke about the skills needed to make this project possible.

“This team has been pivoting well before we were in this position of the pandemic and today is a sign of that,” Jaimez said. “The school district has made moves so we can offer these opportunities of higher education to our students and, as the mayor said, it will make for better lives in this community.”

This partnership will help replace the current Early College High School campus on Pecan Street with a 64,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility that will house hundreds of students.

“Now this partnership between UTRGV and HCISD is especially close to my heart because I have always advocated for tighter alignment between public schools and universities,” UT System Regent Dr. Nolan Perez said. “Harlingen ECHS has set the gold standard from the beginning by offering a challenging dual enrollment curriculum, a nurturing small learning community, and a commitment to recruit historically underrepresented and first-generation college students.”

This partnership offers students a direct path to a bachelor’s degree with a focus on academic core, engineering, computer science, or education. Through this program, students can earn up to 60 hours by the time they graduate high school.

“These kinds of buildings, while they are brick and mortar, give people hope and remind them of what is possible,” Harlingen CISD Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos said. “This is a great partnership. It’s one that has been built on bold thinking and innovative dreaming for our kids.”

Every speaker at the event thanked UTRGV, HCISD, and the City of Harlingen and their leaders for their support to make this project a reality.

The building of this new school was made possible by the gracious donation of land from the City of Harlingen and the agreement between UTRGV and HCISD to pay 50/50 for the building of this new facility. The new campus is expected to open by fall 2021.

Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District established Early College High School in fall 2007, creating the third public high school and first specialized high school in the city. In fall 2017, ECHS entered into an agreement with UTRGV. Plans for building a new campus began in February 2019.

What higher education courses are you looking forward to with this partnership? #JoinTheConversation at facebook.com/rgvisionmagazine.