McALLEN — South Texas College will partner with three local school districts in Hidalgo County after receiving a grant totaling over $600,000 to train students for “high-demand jobs.”

The Texas Workforce Commission presented four checks to South Texas College and the Weslaco, Mission and Monte Alto school districts this week through the Jobs and Education for Texans grant. This is an initiative by the Texas Workforce Commission toward enhancing training and curriculum for high-demanding training for high school and community college students. The funds will go toward purchasing equipment to train students.

The Weslaco school district received over $268,000 and the Mission district obtained over $206,000 in grant funding, both to train for welding, cutters, solderers and brazers, according to the news release. Monte Alto received a grant for over $112,000 to train licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses. STC also received about $75,000 for their Associate Degree of Nursing Program from the Texas Workforce Commission.

Separately, the college also received a Skills Development Fund grant for over $1 million which will be used for “customized training” for new and existing employees of DHR Health, according to a news release. STC also received a Self Sufficiency Fund grant for over $140,000 for works in high demand fields, it stated.

STC President Shirley Reed said the grants used to be only for community colleges but have been expanded toward school districts through the efforts of state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa.

“What we like about this grant is the fact that they work closely with industry partners so industry is leading and dictating what is in need,” said Julian Alvarez, the Texas Workforce Commissioner representing labor.

Competition for grants among school districts is intense, he said, with the over $49 million requested and only $2.5 million awarded.

“There was over 1,200 ISDs around the state and so this grant is very competitive, and so for (several) of the grants to be awarded in South Texas is a true accomplishment and a testament to the collaboration of the local school districts.” he said.

This past legislative session played a key role in this funding, he said.

The Jobs and Education for Texans grants “make it possible for these individuals to train with equipment that industry is using,” he said.

Unemployment is dropping in the area and STC is part of the reason, Alvarez said.

STC Board Chairman Paul Rodriguez said the presentations show the success of South Texas and STC in “leading the way for the state” through partnerships and creating programs.

STC has several successful partnerships with some of the larger school districts, but “more and more the wealth so to speak is being spread … like Monte Alto (getting) part of that money. That’s amazing,” Rodriguez said.

Representatives from each of the institutions expressed gratitude for the grants, success from past, and the high-paying jobs for students ranging from $40 to $60 an hour after graduation.

Monte Alto ISD has fewer than 1,000 students enrolled in its schools and is one of the smaller districts in Hidalgo County.

Monte Alto Federal Programs Director Barbara Cannon said the district is in a rural area and that the school is a “hub of the community,” she said. Monte Alto ISD Superintendent Rosalinda Cobarrubias is currently training following the departure of the previous head administrator.

Mission CISD Superintendent Carolina “Carol” Perez expressed gratitude to the district’s partners and the time writing grants to address district needs is well-spent with strong collaborations.

“Our children are the benefactors, so the equipment is ready to go, our teachers are ecstatic, (and so is) our administration,” Perez added.

Weslaco ISD Superintendent Priscilla Canales said the district, over the course of five years, increased from two welding shops to five now. Over 100 students have been certified in some area of welding over the last two years, she said.