South Texas College is one step closer to its goal of tapping into private foundations to support 1,000 at-risk individuals in need of GED and workforce training opportunities.
The initiative coordinated by the departments of Continuing Education and Resource Development, Management and Compliance worked to raise $600,000 in award agreements from private foundations.
STC’s Board of Trustees formalized and approved the latest installment of $289,388 by The Meadows Foundation Oct. 26. The money will provide funding to train 485 individuals.
“It’s amazing what the GED can do. It opens two very important gateways for those who didn’t have the opportunity to finish high school,” said Juan Carlos Aguirre, assistant to the President for Continuing Education. “It allows them to apply for a Pell grant and enroll in college, and it helps them enter employment that requires secondary credentials.”
RDMC Director Dr. Virginia Champion and Aguirre are among the staff at STC who are coordinating their efforts to identify and pursue funding from private foundations.
Department of Continuing Education Director Olivia De La Rosa will implement and oversee the awarded projects.
An Area Need For Education
The goal of the initiative is to enable at least 90 percent of trainees to complete workforce training, obtain GEDs and earn industry-recognized certifications. Areas of training include Phlebotomy Technician, EKG Technician, Microsoft Office Specialist, Robot Operator and Production Operator Assistant.
“We started assisting these individuals in 2007 thanks to a GED grant from Workforce Solutions,” Aguirre said. “Every year since then we have been applying for grants from public and private funders because we know this is the only way our target population can participate in training, get a meaningful job, break the poverty cycle and become self-sufficient.”
There are approximately 609,000 individuals in Hidalgo and Starr counties who are 18 years and older. About 151,000 of those (25 percent of the adult population) do not have a high school diploma or GED.
Only 305 GEDs were issued in 2020 and 372 in 2019 in Hidalgo and Starr Counties combined.
“The disproportion between the number of individuals without high school diploma or GED and the number of GEDs earned each year is sobering and alarming,” Aguirre said. “If we want to change the educational landscape of the region, we need to invest in workforce development. And we really need to help the most disadvantaged because they have two strikes against them from the get go: they don’t have the resources to attend training and earn their GED, and they don’t have the GED to apply for financial aid.”
Partnering With Private Foundations
The board’s approval of the Meadows Foundation grant is the latest award for at-risk individuals.
The college received the first round of funding in early September in the amount of $346,000. The combination of grants from three foundations train 381 individuals. Funding those grants are the Texas Pioneer Foundation, the Greater Texas Foundation, and the Rio-South Texas Education and Community Development Foundation.
“South Texas College is very appreciative for the contributions made by these foundations,” Aguirre said. “They truly embrace our vision of a community where everyone gets a college education, graduates with a postsecondary industry certification, certificate or degree, and lands a job in a high-demand occupation; they embrace our vision of a society where everyone thrives, no matter their background or circumstances.”
CPWE offices are located at three STC campuses including Pecan Plaza, Starr County, and Technology Campus.