PHARR – Inspired by the desire to improve their community, a group of PSJA Southwest Early College High School students developed and presented several drainage solutions to address local flooding issues to City of Pharr leaders on June 25. 

According to PSJA Southwest ECHS Architecture Teacher Michelle Honl, the students who presented were part of a summer Dual Language Architectural Design course. As part of the course, the students were challenged with finding solutions to address the flooding affecting the Las Milpas area, where several of them live. 

“Our students analyzed the land, topography, and learned water drainage solutions. They then incorporated them into architectural designs along with proposals for the City of Pharr to change the landscaping,” said Honl. 

Using architecture and engineering software programs like Argis and AutoCAD to analyze the local areas they wanted to address, students designed swells, berms, and architectural designs like parks for water retention. In addition to finding creative ways to improve their community, students who took the summer class earned Spanish 6 and Spanish 7 credits and had the opportunity to present their findings to the City of Pharr Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez and other leaders. 

“This just shows that in the midst of disaster something good comes out of it,” said Mayor Hernandez during their presentation alluding to the recent heavy rainfall and flooding that affected the Rio Grande Valley. “We will take this seriously and make sure to get back to you. I think this will work out, especially when we get the beautification committee on board.” 

For Arturo Martinez, a PSJA Southwest ECHS incoming freshman, participating in this project at what will be his high school this fall was a life-changing experience. 

“I hope that they consider our proposals,” said the 14-year-old who got to design a new retention park in the city where floodwaters could be directed. “I learned a lot this summer and I am grateful for this opportunity.”  

For Honl, she takes pride in incorporating project-based learning lessons into her classroom as she believes students learn from applying their education to real-world scenarios. 

“My goal is to help students find their way,” said Honl, who worked in the private industry before becoming an educator in 2014. “If I can do that while teaching what I love then that is the ultimate happiness for me. I no longer build buildings, I build lives.”