Noting the need for more access to college for students in western Hidalgo County, officials with the La Joya Independent School District and South Texas College held a ribbon cutting ceremony last week to celebrate the expansion of the college’s higher education center housed at a La Joya campus.
The South Texas College Higher Education Center, located on the second floor of the district’s Jimmy Carter Early College High School, went through a renovation this past spring that lasted until October, officials said during the ceremony held Friday, Dec. 8.
The $2 million for the center’s expansions and renovations upgraded three science labs, three classrooms and two computer labs in the campus. According to STC President Shirley Reed, the money also paid for the addition of an outdoor welding lab equipped with 45 welding stations and new welding equipment,
The renovations were paid for as part of a $159 million bond issued in 2013 that was divided between 26 construction projects across the college’s five campuses across the Valley. STC dedicated $1.6 million into the renovations while La Joya ISD contributed $400,000.
“La Joya students can come here at this facility, day or night, to take these classes, and they don’t have to drive far or fight the traffic to come to our McAllen campus, it’s a great way to get ready for college,” Reed said. “This facility is where high school students can earn their associates degrees while still in high school so they can take additional courses and transfer them to the university of their choosing once they graduate high school.”
Reed said the center would ultimately prepare students for a career in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math while preparing them for college.
“Every student is going to eventually make a living and earn for their family. These students may be in high school and not realize that so this early college high school helps students develop a taste of college while in high school. It gives them confidence and wets their appetite with the hope that they will finish college and have a much better life. We invite everyone in western Hidalgo to take advantage of this opportunity.”
La Joya district superintendent, Alda Benavidez, also urged students to take advantage of the center, especially those from low-income families.
“For many of our kids they are first generation college students so to provide the opportunity for that first family member of an associate’s degree or at least a taste of college, that alone is great,” Benavidez said. “It helps the family believe their kids can be successful and the fact that families are able to save money because their kids are earning college credit and be halfway through their four year program with an associate’s degree by the time they graduate high school is a big help.”