Monday, September 03, 2007

PSJA partners with STC on dual enrollment program

Ryan Holeywell / The Monitor
September 1, 2007

PHARR — Anthony Torres didn’t know where else to turn, so he started praying.

He was a senior at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School, but he didn’t graduate because he failed the math portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and was short 2.5 credits to receive his diploma.

At the very moment he was thinking about his future, he got a call from a school district official asking if he would enroll in a new program that would let him complete his high school degree while starting college classes.

“I said, ‘Thank you, God.’” Torres recalled. “I ruined my chances, and God gave me another chance.”

Torres is one of more than 200 students expected to enroll in the partnership program between PSJA and South Texas College, called the College, Career & Technology Academy.

The program is geared toward students who narrowly missed graduating last year but want to get started with college.

STC President Shirley Reed said the school districts in McAllen, Hidalgo, La Joya and Mission have all expressed interest in similar programs, and Mercedes offered the program on a smaller scale this summer.

“We just think this is a marvelous way to transition (from) almost done with high school — get them through high school — and get them to begin college,” Reed said.

Those enrolled in the STC-PSJA program will be considered students of both institutions. The partnership helps students — who need a high school degree or equivalency to enroll in STC — while benefiting the school district, whose funding is tied to attendance and graduation rates.

“It’s very hard to get a lot of students back,” PSJA Superintendent Daniel King said of students who fall just a few credits short of graduating.

King expects 200 to 250 students to enroll in the program, which is set to launch this month. Students will likely take their classes at the Texas Workforce Solutions building on Business 83.

The partnership should be particularly helpful to students who failed to graduate due to TAKS scores and need more instruction before taking it again, King said. TAKS tests are scheduled to be given in October.

The program will initially focus on students who were seniors in 2007, but it could eventually expand to include students who were seniors two, three or even more years ago, King said. There will be no time limit for how long students can stay enrolled at the campus.

Those in the program would initially be part-time STC students taking about six hours of class in addition to their PSJA work.

Ramiro Benavidez, who attended PSJA High last year, said he didn’t graduate because he fell 10 points short on his TAKS math test. He said he wants to participate in the program so he can finish high school while starting his college-level study of criminal justice.

Pedro Ornelas, who also attended PSJA High last year, said he needs just two credits to graduate. He hopes to pursue a career in computer maintenance.

“It’ll help me go into college quicker,” he said of the new program.

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