Gaining a Competitive Edge 


Hundreds of high school students can gain hands-on learning experiences in various fields through Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD’s eight PSJA Institutes launched during the 2019-20 school year.

The PSJA Institutes expanded from one to eight at the start of the school year after the successful implementation of the PSJA Pre-Law Institute one year prior.

The additional seven new institutes launched include Mental Health & Human Services, Engineering, Sports Medicine, IT, Education, Entrepreneurship, and Law Enforcement. As a way to celebrate the launch of these new PSJA Institutes, the district hosted kick-off events Oct. 18 and Nov. 1 where students interested in the careers had the chance to hear and interact with veterans in their field of study as well as participate in interactive activities and exhibits.

As part of the institutes, students can receive one-to-one mentorships from professionals in the field; learn what it takes to receive the degrees needed to excel in the profession; and be part of special workshops, job shadowing, and internship opportunities.

Career development opportunities like internships and volunteer work for high school students can help them have access to better universities and future jobs, according to a study conducted by Millennial Branding and The study surveyed over 4,769 high school and college students and 326 employers and found that 60 percent of companies agreed that students need to start focusing on their careers as early as high school in order to have a competitive edge when applying for jobs and careers in the future.

“These kick-off events allowed our students to meet their mentors and learn what to expect throughout the year,” PSJA Executive Director of College Readiness Linda Uribe said. “The PSJA Institutes exemplify family, as students from all of our high schools are taking part and leveraging on each other’s talents.”

PSJA ISD provides an array of opportunities for students to get hands-on learning and experience in the field of their choice. The PSJA Institutes complement the district’s Early College Program, which graduates students with up to an associate degree from South Texas College prior to their high school graduation.

“Our students who participate in these PSJA Institutes will be connected to invaluable mentors and see what it’s like to have careers in these fields,” said PSJA Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. Arredondo. “We are honored to offer these life-changing experiences that help students be better prepared when they go to college and enter the workforce.”

The PSJA Institutes are open to all 10th- through 12th-grade students. To learn more about the PSJA Institutes, visit

As part of the Sports Medicine Institute kickoff, students had the opportunity to Skype with PSJA alumnus Sammy Lopez and participate in hands-on demonstrations with experts in the field.

The PSJA Law Enforcement Institute kickoff featured interactive exhibits from local, state, and federal agencies. Pictured are PSJA ISD students with Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. Arredondo.

Students in the PSJA Pre-Law Institute had the opportunity to hear from elected officials and attorneys about careers in the legal field. Pictured are attorney and UTRGV Professor Jaime Peña, school board Secretary-Treasurer Jesus “Jesse” Vela and school board member Jesse Zambrano with students.

The PSJA Mental Health & Human Services Institute prepares students to understand, contribute to, and compete in one of the fastest growing job markets in the country.

If institutes had been available when you were in high school, which one would you be most interested in being a part of? #JoinTheConversation at