Come the month of May, there is nothing more nerve-wrecking for high school seniors than the anticipation of opening college acceptance letters and finding out how much financial aid they have been awarded to help pay for their post-secondary education. ‘Will I get enough? Will I have to take out a loan? What if my parents can’t afford to pay my tuition?’
Now thanks to the PSJA Education Foundation hundreds of students have received additional scholarships to help pay for their college education.
Aware of the hundreds of low-income students that face financial barriers when attending college, local businesses and education leaders in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District joined forces to form the PSJA Education Foundation and provide direct support to PSJA graduates as well as teachers through classroom innovation mini grants.
First founded in 2013, the PSJA Education Foundation is an independent non-profit organization that promotes excellence in education by developing and sustaining financial and non-financial support from the private sector to PSJA ISD students and staff.
For Joel A Gonzalez, PSJA Education Foundation President, the organization was created to better the lives of students and teachers in the Rio Grande Valley. Since its creation, the foundation has awarded close to $500,000 in scholarships and grants.
“The PSJA Education Foundation is important because we believe education is the key to a brighter future,” said Gonzalez. “It’s an honor be leading an organization that will have an impact on shaping the future leaders of our community. The support our students receive from the community instills a sense of belonging and motivation to complete their education.”
In order to give hundreds of thousands since its creation, leaders in the foundation as well as members of the community dedicate countless hours each year to fundraise. The foundation holds a special annual concert to seek the support of local businesses and PSJA Alumni. In addition, more than 650 PSJA ISD employees contribute monthly to the foundation through generous payroll deductions.
As a result, according to Gonzalez, this year the foundation gave $220,000 in student scholarships. For the first time, the Foundation also awarded five 4-year $2,500 scholarships and nine 4-year $1,500 scholarships to the top rated applicants.
“Being awarded this scholarship allows me to attend my dream university,” shared Leonardo Gutierrez, a recipient of a total of $10,000 in a 4-year period. “I would like to thank my PSJA Family and the PSJA Education Foundation for giving me an opportunity to study at one of the most prestigious universities in Texas.”
Gutierrez plans to major in Psychology while at Baylor University in Waco.
In addition to awarding scholarships, the PSJA Education Foundation also awarded more than $25,000 in competitive Teacher Mini Grants to PSJA educators.
Early this year, Foundation Board Members visited 20 district campuses during a two-day period to surprise the selected recipients. From over 80 applications received, they awarded 34 grants ranging from $500 to $1,000. Projects selected touched on a variety of different topics including: literacy, career pathways, environmental projects, science and even fine arts.
For Michelle Rosales, Librarian at McKeever Elementary in Alamo, receiving a $1,000 grant to purchase new books for her students left her in tears.
“I feel so very honored,” said Rosales. “A lot of them don’t have money to get new books or go to Barnes & Noble, some have never even been there. These books are going to help them so much.”
While the PSJA Education Foundation is proud to be able to help students fulfill their educational goals and teacher innovative classroom projects, the president said their efforts would not be possible without the endless support and generous donations from the community.
“I would like to thank the PSJA teachers and employees, as well as the business donors for their continued support,” said Gonzalez.
To donate to the PSJA Education Foundation or become a sponsor please visit www.psjaisd.us/foundation.