STC gets $1.9M grant for migrants

McALLEN — South Texas College received $1.9 million from the U.S. Department of Education through the High School Equivalency Program grant.

The grant funds a five-year project to assist about 500 migrant and seasonal farmworkers. This group, along with their eligible family members can earn the equivalent of a secondary school diploma and receive postsecondary education or training. The project aims to increase access to education for GED programs, industry-recognized certifications, career pathway training and certificates or degrees.

In the first year of the grant, STC will receive about $370,000. The amount will increase slightly each year, until it’s last year, when the college is slated to receive $394,000.

Funding will go toward hiring personnel to oversee and coordinate the project, along with supplies, tuition and fees, and the external evaluation of the project. STC’s Department of Continuing, Professional, and Workforce Education will manage the grant, according to a news release from the school.

This project will span across campuses in McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City, making education more accessible to this population.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, presented the check to the institution at the STC Cooper Center for the Performing Arts in McAllen Friday afternoon. Cuellar is also a part of the appropriations committee and has worked with other programs including the College Assistance Migrant Program.

“I’m just very proud of the work that they’re going to be doing for the next five years, 500 lives that will be changed,” Cuellar said.

STC board trustee Alejo Salinas and Cuellar come from migrant backgrounds, increasing the significance of the measure for them.

“As an educator, I saw so many migrant students drop out. Being a former migrant field worker myself, it hurts in here when you see that happen,” Salinas said addressing the audience.

This project has the potential to help migrants develop and continue their education, he said.

“I know the potential migrant students have, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t succeed in this program, there’s a lot of potential out there, that we’re not reaching,” Salinas said.

The trustee said this project “opens a lot of doors” in job opportunities and STC will help with their needs in the education process.

“South Texas College offers a lot of support, so we’re going to be there for them all the way,” Salinas said.

STC president Shirley Reed said this provides more economic opportunities for migrants. STC has previously applied for the federal grant, but has improved in certain aspects, with it now passing through with nearly a perfect score.

This project also fits with the college-going culture of STC and improving the economic growth of the area, she said.

“We know it’s going to make a tremendous difference in the lives of these students and their families…,” Reed said. “This will give them a chance to finish high school and get on track to go to college, and then how far they go, is going to be in their hands.”