High school students awarded $1.8M in scholarships through STC program


South Texas College 2008 Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy graduates with college administrators. tim smith
South Texas College 2008 Dual Enrollment Engineering Academy graduates with college administrators.

For the 46 students in South Texas College’s Dual Enrollment Academies, the future is looking bright. Not only did they graduate from the college this spring, earning associate degrees in biology or engineering weeks before they earned their high school diplomas, but they were also awarded more than $1.8M in scholarships to attend universities across the nation.

“It is amazing what these students have accomplished during their two years in the academies,” said Guadalupe Chavez, coordinator of the academies for South Texas College. “It’s a challenge for them to tackle the demands of being a high school student, college student, young adult family member, community member and, for some, a member of the workforce. Our academies demand long hours of study and participation, but it is paying off. We are in the third year of this program and the results are outstanding.”

Thirty-three students graduated from the college’s Dual Enrollment Engineering Academy (DEEA) and 13 students graduated from the college’s Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy (DEMSA). Most will go on to their junior years in higher education at major universities including Stanford University, Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas-Pan American, Kettering University, Norwich University, Baylor University and Texas Tech University.

“I am proud to say that I am one of the first students to graduate from STC’s DEEA,” said DeeAnn Vasquez, who is also the valedictorian of her graduating class at Donna High School. “I was accepted in to both Cornell and Stanford and was awarded the Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship, which will provide me with full financial support from my bachelor’s degree all the way to my doctoral degree. This would not have been possible without the education, workshops, tutoring and guidance provided by DEEA.”

The best part about the academies? They are completely free to the students, funded through grants and donations.

"The DEMSA program has been beneficial in so many ways,” said Alexia Trigo, Rio Grande City High School senior. “This program did not leave me the time to fall prey to the negative peer pressure and distractions other students my age face. It was a real challenge, but if given the chance, I would not trade the past two years for the so-called 'normal’ high school experience. Two years of college for free and a two-year head start on my higher education – it was definitely worth all the hard work."

The program is targeted at academically gifted and highly motivated students. Each applicant is screened to ensure that they can meet the challenges and rigors of the program head on. To date, 59 students have graduated from the college’s Dual Enrollment Academies, 61 more are currently enrolled and 116 new students will be starting academy programs in fall 2008.

“We are serving two of the poorest counties in the nation and couple that with the fact that the Texas Education Agency says that more than 39 percent of the residents of these counties over the age of 25 do not earn a high school diploma, much less a college diploma, and you have a recipe for the ruin of any economic development and headway we have made in the past ten years,” added Chavez.

“What we are doing with the academies is pretty revolutionary. We are taking students that come from low income families, that are the first in their family to attend college, that come from a migrant farming tradition and whose first language is not English and showing them that if they apply their intellect and passion and throw in some hard work, they can accomplish anything. We are helping them set the standard for their peers and other students who will, hopefully, follow in their foot steps.”

In addition to providing instruction, STC ensures student success through a variety of free student support services including tutoring, mentorship, advising, counseling, scholarship searches and university tours.

As an added bonus, DEMSA students also earn CPR certification, are mentored by local health care professionals and have special opportunities to volunteer at healthcare facilities across the Valley. DEEA students not only learn through class work, but also by participating in the educational trips the academy provides, including observations at the NASA Space Center in Houston.

“We are so proud of our students because they have worked exceptionally hard to get where they are today,” concluded Chavez. “We ultimately hope that they will bring their skills and knowledge back to the Rio Grande Valley, contributing to our economic momentum and serving as pillars of the community.”

The academies are just one component of STC’s Dual Enrollment Program, which is one of the largest in the state of Texas, providing more than 6,000 students across 32 school districts in the Rio Grande Valley the opportunity to earn college credit in critical subject areas like history, math and science, as well as in technical trades like precision manufacturing and automotive. The Achieve Early College High School at South Texas College is another project with the McAllen Independent School district that STC is gearing up for fall 2008. The college also partners with the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School District to allow non-completing students to return to high school to earn a diploma and get on the track to college.

For more information about South Texas College and its Dual Enrollment Program call 956-872-8311.