As part of the first graduating class of distinguished scholars from Sharyland Achieve Early College High School, Isaac Rosa says the program has enabled him to visualize his goals as he transitions into an Ivy League school in the fall.
A self-professed “military brat,” Rosa says he arrived in Texas by way of California. When he began high school in Sharyland, he says he jumped at the chance to enter the school district’s first early college program despite feeling some measure of risk, he said.
“I am part of the first graduating class from Sharyland Early College High School. I felt it was a risk at first, but I took it, and now I’m here,” Rosa said. “You get used to the groove. While in the early college high school program I feel I found my groove and figured out the best way to learn. I was able to explore that since I was taking more challenging courses.”
Rosa graduated with an associate degree in Biology from South Texas College in the spring and will now be attending Yale University to study molecular biology. Hoping to earn his doctorate, Rosa says he wants to enter the field of pathology to study disease and microorganisms.
“It’s unreal that I am going to Yale. I am optimistic about it. I feel like I can see my goals and do what I want to do,” he said.
Rosa was among the 49 students honored for their achievements recently by The Early College High School (ECHS) program at South Texas College (STC). The program hosted its 1st Annual Distinguished Scholars event on May 15 and was held to honor distinguished scholars graduating from Early College High Schools across the Valley and who are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 from their respective class.
STC aimed to highlight students’ dedication to their studies and their accomplishments while obtaining an associate degree from the college.
“This is the first time we have honored the top students from our early college high schools, and you are all incredible,” STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed told students at the event. “It is just amazing how well you have done. It took a tremendous amount of support and leadership from the school districts, and you truly represent the very best, the brightest and most capable of all students in the Valley.”
In attendance at the event were superintendents from early college high schools across the Valley including Dr. Alda Benavidez, Superintendent from La Joya ISD; Ronaldo J. Cavazos, Superintendent from Edcouch Elsa ISD; Dr. Daniel Trevino, Superintendent of Mercedes ISD; Dr. Priscilla Canales, Superintendent of Weslaco ISD; Hidalgo ISD Assistant Superintendent Sandra Cavazos; Leticia Trevino, Assistant Superintendent from Rio Grande City ISD; and Carmen Esquivel, director of college readiness at Edinburg CISD.
“One of the things that impress me is that when you have dual credit programs like this in the high schools is that it challenges our teachers to become better teachers and become more knowledgeable,” said Superintendent Cavazos from Edcouch Elsa. “I have seen a lot of these teachers from across the Valley step up to the plate, and every summer they are out there going to trainings and doing whatever else they can do to try to learn as much as possible to help prepare kids.
“What I would like for students and their families to know is that regardless of whether or not they are still in school, they can still call us and get guidance from our staff,” Cavazos said. “Sometimes they leave and run into obstacles in college, and they don’t feel like the can call us anymore, but one thing I like to tell students is that we are always open, and all of our staff is always willing to help as much as possible.”
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSOC), the Dual Credit program at STC partners with 24 school districts and 78 high schools across the Valley. More than 200 college faculty and over 400 dual credit faculty support the program, which received a commendation by SACSOC in November 2016 for integrating high school students into the college’s programs.
With the first early college high school created in Progreso in 2006, to date, there are now 29 across the Valley with a pipeline of more than 20,000 students and 200 unique dual credit courses. More than 50 percent of ECHS graduating seniors receive an associate degree.
By August 2018, STC will have awarded over 1,200 associate degrees and 300 certificates to ECHS graduates alone.
“We are together and working towards our mutual commitment with our great partnership with such a large group of school districts that have helped us focus on student success,” said STC Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Anahid Petrosian. “In collaboration with our school partners, we have gained a lot successful educational pathways for our students as they transition from high school to college. This has become a great story of success for our region and our state.”