Region One Educational Service Center (ESC) has unveiled its newest facility, leaders say will aid in taking local students “to the next level” of educational attainment in the Valley.

On Aug. 27, a host of administrators, superintendents and educators celebrated the opening of Region One’s new $7 million ESC Administrative and Professional Development Center located next to its headquarters on Schunior Street, just west of the University of Texas-Pan American campus.

Region One administrators originally broke ground in May for the new two-story building, which adds more than 38,000 square feet to the current facility and five new meeting rooms that will accommodate over 450 workshop participants.

Region One serves over 400,000 children from Laredo to Brownsville.

“We have had a very busy day and it’s not over yet,” said Region One Executive Director Jack Damron, speaking about the ribbon cutting which was followed shortly after by the annual ESC student performances report public hearing. “The grand opening of the new facilities for our administrators and professional development center has been wonderful. We have had a number of superintendents attend along with the general public so it has been a very productive morning.”

U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-McAllen, made an unannounced visit to Region One in Edinburg on Thursday morning. Hinojosa had just returned from China where he and other members of Congress addressed leaders in Hong Kong about the importance of six party talks that could ultimately lead to sanctions against North Korea.

Damron said he was pleasantly surprised when Hinojosa made the visit for the ribbon cutting of the new ESC Administrative facility in Edinburg on Thursday morning.

The best days for the Valley are still ahead of us, Hinojosa told attendees at the reception. Congress has doubled the amount for education under the Obama Administration, Hinojosa said emphasizing his goal for acquiring what the calls “the Valley’s share” of more than $3.5 trillion set aside in the U.S. budget.

“As we increase the number of students who are going to college, and we see that the University of Texas-Pan American was recognized as one of the best 100 universities in the country by Forbes … that means we are going to be able to see these young men and women taking positions of leadership,” Hinojosa said. “They will take us to the next level why, because they know the importance of math and science, information science and computer literacy.

“That will make us able to compete with Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth,” he said.

As an example, Hinojosa considers the size of the Gear Up program, $85 million over a six-year period, which shows that the federal government knows the importance of education in the region, he said.

“It can be done by working together, all the elected officials, appointed leaders and particularly our superintendents, because they are the ones who are training our young children to be school ready, college ready and productive Americans for the rest of their lives.”