New Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence puts STC at the forefront of training the next generation of border security professionals

As a new cadet at South Texas College’s Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence Daniel Longoria says he looks forward to one day serving the community and protecting the public.

Entering the police academy fulfills a lifelong dream of a career in law enforcement, according to Longoria, who is part of the first group of 24 cadets to utilize the new Regional Center, a master plan that consists of 534,385 square feet of buildings, structures, and driving track to be completed in three phases over the next decade.

Longoria began his law enforcement training at the center in July, and after graduating in December plans to apply with the Hidalgo Sheriff’s Department as a deputy.

“I feel honored that we get to represent South Texas College, and I know all of the cadets are really proud of that,” Longoria said. “I think the program that STC offers is good for people who are looking to start their career in law enforcement. Once you get here, you start at 100 miles an hour, and it is wonderful to be a part of it.”

South Texas College held a grand opening and building dedication ceremony for its highly anticipated Regional Center for Public Excellence Sept. 18.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott delivered the keynote address to a large gathering that consisted of local, state, and federal law enforcement professionals.

Special guests at the event included Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen and Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville; state Reps. Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen, Terry Canales, D-Edinburg and Sergio Munoz, D-Palmview; Pharr Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez; PSJA ISD Superintendent Dr. Daniel King; and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Vice Chair Dr. Fred Farias.

“Going back to Dr. Reed and South Texas College, I want to thank you for your genuine commitment to both higher education as well as to public safety (and) the reality is both are essential for our future,” Gov. Abbott told attendees. “Keeping communities safe must be our top priority if we are going to have the safety and security to be able to educate our kids, or safety and security to have the vibrant economy that we have.

“Combatting dangerous threats like those you have to deal with requires superior training for law enforcement professionals, and it’s now more important than it has ever been,” Abbott said. “You have to deal with issues like human trafficking, gangs and drug smuggling and to do that, it requires collaboration at all levels of law enforcement as well as first responders. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, public safety professionals are essential to that top priority of ensuring security in our state.”

The new Regional Center intends to make STC the first border community college in the nation to establish integrative training along the US/Mexico border while meeting the demand for professionals seeking careers in public safety, law enforcement, fire science, and Homeland Security.

At the event, STC officially launched Phase 1 of its $71 million master plan that will transform the center by 2030. Phase 1 is a 19,500 square-foot investment that consists of a training center, driving skills/skid pad, and shooting and driving simulation labs. The center also consists of 180 additional acres for future expansion.

“For all of us living in the Valley, this will be transformative for our region,” said STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed. “We dedicate this center to our public law enforcement professionals, and we want to say thank you for the work they do. They selflessly give of themselves every day to provide for our security and our safety, and we want to express our appreciation for their service to all of us.”

Phase Two includes a $10.6 million investment for fire science and Homeland Security. It includes a multi-story fire training structure, two-story residential training structure, and confined space/search and rescue training area. Phase 2 also includes the EVOC, a cityscape with non-lethal training capacity, and a covered shooting range with firearm training classroom.

Phase Three is a $50.6 million investment in Integrative Homeland Security, which will add a physical plant and expansive growth with new education and student services buildings.

“This center is really the culmination of our $159 million bond issue, which was originally approved in Oct. 2013. This is the last of those projects, and represents the only new campus in the entire program,” said STC Board of Trustees chairman Paul Rodriguez. “This is truly a special project, and through the tremendous involvement, leadership and vision of Dr. Reed, Mayor Hernandez and Dr. King, we have a whole different project in our hands, and it’s one to be excited about.”

A true collaboration, the Regional Center would not be possible without significant contributions from the city, school district and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Pharr contributed 59 acres of land worth $2.5 million, and the Basic Peace Office Certification Program is operated in part with the Pharr Police Academy.

PSJA ISD contributed 10 acres of land and an additional $1 million for the construction of four classrooms to serve dual enrollment students in criminal justice and other public safety programs.

“This is about public safety,” said PSJA ISD Superintendent Dr. Daniel King. “The quality and caliber of public safety will increase tremendously along the border. It is about education. This represents the first public higher education institute with a permanent presence in the tri-city community. Finally, it is about workforce development and one of the most popular careers for young people to consider along with other law-related fields.”