PSJA ISD high school students mentor children with special needs
Students join mentees for 15th Annual Miracle Kids of South Texas Football Event
PHARR – Over a dozen PSJA North Early College High School and Liberty Middle School athletes gathered at the PSJA Stadium to help 15 special needs students experience the “Friday Night Lights” during the 15th Annual Miracle Kids of South Texas Football Event held Saturday, Oct. 26.
According to Liberty Middle School PSJA Special Education Teacher Tiffani Garza, many of the students were volunteering through the Liberty Mentorship Program, which connects students with mentees in the school’s special education unit, Team Discovery and other feeder schools. The following schools participated in the event: Garza-Peña Elementary, Palacios Elementary, Liberty MS, PSJA North ECHS, and PSJA Southwest ECHS.
“We have a lot of students in high school that come back to mentor our kids and just give back,” Garza shared. “Many of our students have grown up with these kids since elementary. The outpour and support we have is amazing. They love to interact and see how they look up to them.”
For PSJA North ECHS Sophomore and Football Player Anthony Garcia volunteering in the program has been life changing.
“It means a lot to be able to give them this experience,” said Garcia who plans to pursue an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice. “I play football for them, for people that can’t do what I do. It’s an honor to help kids have the time of their life.”
Garcia first started mentoring students as a 7th grader at LBJ Middle School. His mentee, Sammy Gomez now a 4th grader at Palacios Elementary, was one of over a dozen kids in the PSJA Special Education Program who got to experience the "Friday Night Lights.” Inspired by the impact the program and his mentee Sammy had in his life, Garcia now continues to mentor students while in high school.
According to Sammy’s father Hilario Gomez, the mentorship has made a huge impact in their family.
“Anthony inspires our Sammy to be himself,” shared Gomez. “He sees past his condition and makes him feel included. It’s jaw dropping, thank you for being there for our son and all kids with disabilities.”
Like Garcia, many other PSJA students continue to volunteer and give their time to mentor.
For PSJA North ECHS Senior Victoria Brewster, being a mentor since she was at Kelly-Pharr Elementary has inspired her to pursue a career in special education.
“It’s so special to see the kids, especially as we get older and they grow up,” said Brewster who will be graduating with an Associate Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in May 2020 and also volunteers at the PSJA Pathways Toward Independence/LIFE House. “It’s awesome that PSJA has all these programs for our students and that they are not left out. There are opportunities for all students.”
In addition to this mentorship program, the PSJA Special Education Department also offers the PSJA Pathways Toward Independence Program which promotes the continued development of vocational training skills and/or functional independent living skills to assist special needs students ages 14 to 21 in becoming emergent adults in the community. Through the continued partnership with South Texas College, students can earn college certificates in Employability Skills, Customer Service, Office Skills, Floral Design, Photography and Cake Decorating.
To learn more about these opportunities visit https://www.psjaisd.us/pathways or call 956-354-2027.
Several PSJA North ECHS football players serve as mentors to children with disabilities in the PSJA Special Education Department.
PSJA North ECHS Senior Victoria Brewster has been a mentor since she was at Kelly-Pharr Elementary and is now inspired to pursue a career in special education.
PSJA North ECHS Senior and Raiders Wide Receiver RJ Zuniga pictured with his mentee Angel Galvillo.
Liberty Middle School student leaders serve as mentors to children with disabilities in the PSJA Special Education Department.