PHARR – Due to its high number of financial aid applications and dedication to encourage students to apply, the U.S. Department of Education selected Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA ISD) as their only stop in Texas for a special presentation on Monday, Dec. 19.

During the event, hundreds of juniors and seniors from PSJA’s five early college high schools had the opportunity to hear more about the financial aid process and completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) directly from the U.S. Department of Education's Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics Alejandra Ceja and PSJA alumni at PSJA Southwest Early College HS.

"If there is one thing I want you to take away from this is that education is within your reach,” Ceja told students. “We are so proud to be here. When we asked across the country what schools we should visit, this (PSJA) was the school district that everyone pointed us to.”

Only four states, including Texas, were selected for the tour by the USDE in their effort to continue encouraging high school students to apply early for Financial Aid. At PSJA ISD, more than 50 percent of all seniors have already completed the early FAFSA application and applied to various universities.

For Stephanie Valdibia, a senior at PSJA T. Jefferson T-STEM ECHS who completed her FAFSA early in October, attending the event made her appreciate all the opportunities and help students have at PSJA.

“Our financial officers and counselors are very helpful,” said Valdibia who will be graduating with an Associate Degree in Biology from South Texas College in May 2017 and hopes to attend Baylor University. “As a first-generation college student, I am very grateful for all the opportunities and resources that PSJA provides. I hope all students take advantage of them."

In addition to hearing from Alejandra Ceja and a panel of PSJA alumni currently enrolled at various institutions including the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) and Stanford University, students had the opportunity to ask questions about the process.  

Alumni panelists included: Rubi Leal, a PSJA Southwest ECHS class of 2014 graduate attending UT Austin; Devany Medrano, PSJA ECHS graduate attending UTRGV; and Ramiro Leal, PSJA Southwest ECHS graduate and current student at Stanford University.