Donna ISD earns first TWC grant; 2 other area districts also awarded

DONNA — More than $760,000 in grants by the Texas Workforce Commission were awarded to Rio Grande Valley school districts.

For Donna, the award comes as a first from the agency.

“This is the first time we get such a grant here in Donna, so we are very excited about that,” said Donna ISD Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez.

The Donna school district received $208,383 for its welding program, specifically to purchase new equipment, Azaiez said.

The district hopes to update some of the equipment in efforts to have the students learn and get certified with the latest technology.

“We’ve always had a great welding program; it’s a nationally recognized program,” he said. “This will allow us to expand and purchase more advanced, or high-tech machinery so that we can better prepare our students for the workforce.”

The program has been popular over the years, Azaiez said, with at least 80 students from its two high schools enrolled per school year, and at least 20 graduating each year with certifications.

As to why they hadn’t had the chance to receive such help in the past, Azaiez said he attributes the change to a greater push to highlight the positive outcomes of such programs.

“I think now we are highlighting the great things that have been going on, but nobody had really put them on the spotlight before,” he said.

The other two districts to receive grants were Raymondville at $271,472 and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo at $280,630.

The grants are part of the TWC’s Jobs and Education for Texans program, known as JET, for which the state government allocates $10 million each biennium.

These grants are specifically dedicated to help education institutions curtail the cost of developing Career and Technical Education programs, or CTE, in high-demand fields.

At the PSJA school district, the grant will also be used to purchase equipment, but this will go toward the Health Science pathway.

This is the third consecutive year that PSJA qualifies for such grants. It also comes at a time when the district is taking steps toward opening new spaces for most of its CTE programs through the opening of its College and University Center, which will offer a centralized location and college-like setting for students in these programs.

Through the Health Science pathway, the aim is to give students hands-on experience to enter the medical field. Some of the areas covered under Health Science include Pharmacy Technician, Phlebotomy Technician, Electrocardiogram Technician, Certified Nurse Assistant and Emergency Medical Technician.

“This grant… will allow students to receive training on equipment that is used in hospitals, nursing homes and medical offices,” a PSJA school district news release read. “With these opportunities, students can continue their post-secondary education and apply to the LVN, RN or Radiologic Technology programs.”