The McAllen Independent School District will incorporate three new certificates to its Career Technical Education programs, with its first cohorts beginning in 2019.
A local and state demand led the district to form the programs, said Diana Peña, career technical education coordinator. Students can register for forensic science technician, emergency medical technician and emergency dispatch technician classes. The school district will also partner with South Texas College to offer a continuing education certificate for the forensic science technician course.
Data from the Texas Labor report and a national labor agency, along with growing interest within the student body, factored in the district’s decision, Peña said.
“The correlation is there between the need for this position, and the student interest is there,” Peña said.
The first cohorts will be composed of juniors and seniors who will commit to earning the two-year certificate. The district-wide program will have eight students from each campus for a total of 24.
Retaining the students in the program and serving the community are some of the goals of the programs, Peña said.
Many of the jobs students go into after graduation, such as the fire or the police departments, will help students further their education should they choose to go to state schools, she added.
“But getting your foot into that door is where we come in,” Peña said.
McAllen teacher Herman Perez served as a police officer for over two decades and has drawn from his personal experience to incorporate lessons into his classroom. He noted there are many applicants applying for a crime scene specialist position, but not many certificates are available or accessible, which highlights the need, he said.
Students will learn a variety of skills, including analyzing footsteps or bloodstain patterns, because crime scenes vary as perpetrators use different weapons, he said.
“I think this new program is going to give them that in-depth, hands-on (learning) more so than what’s done right now,” Perez said.
“To have the opportunity to experience and to make mistakes in a controlled environment in a classroom, and to learn from those mistakes is going to give the students the opportunity to be able to avoid making those mistakes in the field,” he added.
The new certificates demonstrate the district’s commitment to the community, Peña said. Some students may not go to college right after graduation and this initiative will help bridge that gap toward building skills and being more marketable.
“Having these certifications will allow them to go out into the job market, get a job that pays them higher than minimum wage and complete their education at the same time,” Peña said.