South Texas College held a grand opening and building dedication ceremony for its highly anticipated Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence Sept. 18. Helping the college open the facility was Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, delivering the keynote address to a gathering of local, state and federal law enforcement professionals.
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. It will also meet the demand for professionals seeking careers in public safety, law enforcement, fire science and Homeland Security.
“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.
“Combating 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.”
At the event, STC officially launched Phase 1 of its $71 million master plan. The center, via the plan, will undergo a transformation by 2030. Phase 1 is a 19,500 square-foot investment. It 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 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 and a cityscape with non-lethal training capacity. Additionally, a covered shooting range will serve as a firearm training classroom.
Phase Three is a $50.6 million investment in Integrative Homeland Security. This will add a physical plant and 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.
Pharr contributed 59 acres of land worth $2.5 million. Additionally, the Basic Peace Office Certification Program is in operation in part with the Pharr Police Academy. Then acres of land were part of a contribution from PSJA ISD. PSJA ISD also gave an additional $1 million for the construction of four classrooms. These classrooms will serve dual enrollment students in criminal justice as well as other public safety programs.
“This is about public safety,” said PSJA ISD Superintendent 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.”