• IDRA Newsletter • November – December 2015 •
In a report, College Bound and Determined, last year IDRA explored how the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district in south Texas transformed itself from low achievement and expectations to planning for all students to graduate from high school and college (Bojorquez, 2014). This transformation went beyond changing sobering graduation rates or even getting graduates into college. IDRA examined data and conducted interviews with Superintendent Dr. Daniel King, school principals, teachers, counselors and students to explore how PSJA has achieved the kind of success that it has. IDRA saw that PSJA’s vision and actions, clearly and independently aligned, with IDRA’s own vision for change: the Quality Schools Action Framework™. This change theory helps communities and educators assess a school’s conditions and outcomes and identify leverage points for improvement and informing action.
Recently, we interviewed two graduates from PSJA who are now in college, about the district’s college-going culture. Their full interviews are available online at http://www.idra.org/images/stories/Thomas_and_Pedro_full_interviews.pdf.
Thomas Ray García, Graduate of the PSJA ISD will complete his bachelor’s degree May 2016 from Princeton University
“It’s extremely important for teachers to encourage students at a very early age to think about college and getting them aware of the benefits of a college education. I don’t think it’s unrealistic at all to encourage all students to go to college. There are many different kinds of colleges, universities, major and minor programs and certificates available to students from all walks of life. Students from barrios and poor families deserve to go to college. Experiencing college, which will be different to anything they’ve been exposed to before, is crucial to their growth and development.
“I’ve noticed slow but very important changes in climate of the high school I attended. There’s always been a sense of wanting the students to be college-ready, but now there is more depth to the speeches and the environment. There is a big difference between putting up posters and talking about college to actually bringing in alumni to give students a first-hand experience beyond what the educators are telling them. Students are given more insights beyond considering a college degree a commodity and a way to get a job to more broadly and deeply seeing college as a place where they can grow socially and emotionally and know they’ve authentically grown as a person.”
Pedro Nepomuceno, Graduate of the PSJA ISD and a current student at the University of Texas Health Science Nursing School
“Everyone seems to be taking notice of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district with even President Obama honoring Dr. King, the superintendent. Not only is the dual-credit direction awesome, but so is the bilingual program. The student keeps her language and culture and graduates fully proficient in both languages. My sister attends the same high school I did, and she will graduate with enough college hours for a minor in Spanish. She has taken some of her content courses in Spanish beyond the Spanish language classes. I think everybody can go to college. Whatever your family’s social and economic situation, college is doable.”
Bojorquez, H. College Bound and Determined (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, 2014).
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[©2015, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the November – December 2015 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]