Nearly 500 Educators from eight states attend PSJA ISD 6th Annual College for All Conference
McALLEN - Eager to learn best practices for establishing early college programs and how to replicate nationally recognized initiatives in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA ISD), nearly 500 educators from eight states made the journey to the Rio Grande Valley to attend the PSJA ISD 6th Annual "College For All" Conference Nov. 14-15 at the McAllen Convention Center.
The PSJA ISD College For All Conference is the premiere conference for school systems who want to learn more about the district's Early College, Parental Engagement, Dual Language, and Back-on-Track to college programs, to name a few. This year, educators from Texas and other states such as New York, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California attended the conference to learn from PSJA ISD's successful initiatives.
The conference kicked off with a PSJA ISD Early College Alumni Panel who shared their experiences in the program and how it impacted them when they attended college. The panel was comprised of Luis Silos, PSJA North Early College HS Class of 2017; Alexis Saenz, PSJA North ECHS Class of 2017; Mizael Rivera, PSJA T. Jefferson T-STEM ECHS Class of 2016; and Alexis Marez, PSJA Memorial ECHS Class of 2017.
"Being 13-years-old and taking college classes was challenging, but my teachers and counselors supported us every step of the way," said Alexis Marez who was part of the first cohort of nursing high school students to graduate from South Texas College in 2017. "The Early College Program gave me an edge when I transitioned to college because I took rigorous courses in high school."
In addition to the PSJA alumni panel, as part of the conference, educators were able to choose from various breakout sessions focused on tracks such as: Establishing and Scaling Early College High Schools; The Role of Higher Education Partnerships; Back-On-Track to College; Empowering Parents: A Two-Generation Approach to College Success; Academic Rigor for College Success (Dual Language Enrichment Program); and Policy and College Success.
For Gayle Williams, College Connections Coach at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, attending the conference for the first time helped her gain insights to share back with her team.
"I am so impressed with the partnership the district has with the higher ed institutions, parents, and the community," said Williams. "I have loved getting to meet educators from all over the country. It's great to learn ways to help our program grow. I love to hear how students are aware that they are college students. Students are being prepared for the real world."
Due to PSJA ISD's success with the expansion of the Early College Program to all high schools in partnership with South Texas College and successfully decreasing the dropout rate, many school districts near and far have taken note and continue to visit Deep South Texas to learn these skills and open similar programs at their respective schools.
"We have changed the image of college in our community," said South Texas College President Dr. Shirley Reed during the conference. "Today college is possible, expected, and affordable to all students. This is possible through districts like PSJA ISD working together with higher education institutions."
As a result, this year the conference featured a new track All Means All: Connecting the Most Challenging Students to College.
"The national dialogue about what students are capable of is happening here at PSJA ISD," said PSJA Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. Arredondo. "We are proud to host this conference and share our knowledge with leaders across the nation so other students can have access to the same opportunities ours have."