Preparing Students for a Bright Future

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The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) is passionate about helping students continue their education after high school. Each year thousands of high school students graduate with college credit hours and up to an Associate’s Degree or College Certificate through the district’s nationally recognized Early College Program in partnership with South Texas College.

2023 PSJA ISD Graduate Rachel Serrano from PSJA Collegiate High School Program discussed her experience.

“The PSJA Early College Program was one of the best decisions I made for my high school career. Through it, I was able to graduate with an associate degree while being a student at PSJA ISD, helping me get a jump-start on my journey to becoming a future doctor,” Serrano said.

Students in the program remain at their home campus and travel to the PSJA Academies’ site at the Dr. Daniel P. King PSJA College & University Center for their designated hours of coursework. It allows students to continue to participate in extracurricular activities. Most recently, more than 400 seniors in the Early College Program were named prospective graduates for South Texas College’s Spring Commencement Ceremony weeks before receiving their high school diploma.

“As a drum major in the PSJA Memorial Green Machine Band, I learned the true meaning of leading and giving back to my community. I want to thank the school district for their passion in preparing us to be global leaders and for actively working toward that purpose,” she said.

While the district goes above and beyond ensuring students are ready for post-secondary success, their commitment continues far beyond graduating students from high school.

Through the PSJA College Transition Department, students receive support from Financial Aid Officers and College Transition Specialists in applying for financial aid, universities, and colleges, and succeeding while pursuing they pursue a post-secondary education.

“We aim to ensure all our students are provided with the necessary tools and information they need to reach their post-secondary goals. So we have GoCenters in each high school where our Financial Aid Officers and College Transition Specialists work together to help our seniors complete all necessary tasks such as applying for college and applying financial aid. And we ensure students are cleared for financial aid awarding,” said PSJA College Transition Director Carlos Garcia.

At PSJA ISD, the conversation with high school students regarding post-secondary education starts as early as their freshman year with the PSJA College Transition Team. It intensifies as students move into their Senior year.

“We take students class by class in the GoCenters or we go visit their classrooms. We also email and text. We’re very big on social media. Anytime we have an announcement, students can view them on our Instagram or Twitter pages with the latest college information,” he said.

“Our biggest event of the year is PSJA College Night. We usually have over 60 colleges and universities attending in the fall,” Garcia said.

Open to the community, PSJA College Night occurs every fall. Many graduating seniors pursuing post-secondary education at PSJA ISD are first-generation college students and College Night allows students and family members to meet representatives from different universities and programs and discuss the next steps.

“We have maybe one thousand or more families attend PSJA College Night,” Garcia said. “The event is free and all PSJA ISD students can come in and speak to the recruiters. This is open for all grade levels, which is perfect because a lot of parents might still have kids in middle school who are already starting to think about attending those prestigious universities.”

According to Garcia, the PSJA ISD Class of 2023 seniors from all the district’s high schools received over $103 million in scholarships and grants through efforts led by the PSJA College Readiness Department and College Transition team.

“This year, we have students accepted and attending institutions like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dartmouth, Cornell, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Johns Hopkins, and other prestigious and highly competitive universities,” Garcia said.

“The majority of our team are first-generation college students. So, we personally know the struggles and the challenges that our students go through,” he said.

Garcia described the incredible blessing it is to work with PSJA ISD.

“We’re very grateful for all the support we get and it inspires to go above and beyond for our students,” he said.  “At PSJA ISD, the support doesn’t end when they graduate from high school. We are here for students and even our alumni until they complete their post-secondary education and are ready to excel in the workforce. That’s how much we care.”

Through the PSJA Early College Program, each semester more than 3,500 PSJA ISD high school students are enrolled in college courses. At PSJA ISD, all students can earn up to two years of college free or up to 60 college credit hours.

“We are proud to lead the region in providing life-changing opportunities for our students,” said PSJA Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alejandro Elias. “We thank our dedicated staff, administrations, teachers, and parents for helping us make this vision a reality and always do what is best for our students who are our future. It takes a village.”

PSJA ISD is an open-enrollment school district and welcomes students living anywhere in the Rio Grande Valley. Students can still apply for the 2023-2024 school year at www.psjaisd.us/register

Take the time to learn more about these incredible opportunities for post-secondary education with PSJA ISD. For more information on the PSJA College Transition program, visit psjaisd.us/collegetransition.

 

Jillian Cameron