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Arnoldo Cantu, Sr. Elementary

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Breaking Barriers: PSJA Collegiate School of Health Professions senior shares her educational journey of Inspiration and Achievement

Breaking Barriers: PSJA Collegiate School of Health Professions senior shares her educational journey of Inspiration and Achievement

Each year hundreds of high school students in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA ISD) have the opportunity to get a jumpstart on their college education and career. Among those taking advantage of these life-changing opportunities is 12th grade student Nicole Almaraz who will be earning an Associate Degree in May 2024 and is working towards a Phlebotomy Technician Certificate.  

 

Since her journey started at PSJA ISD in elementary, Almaraz has been working hard to make her dreams come true for her and her family. Now as a senior attending PSJA Collegiate School of Health Professions in San Juan, Almaraz has the world at her fingertips. 

 

According to the 2023 Texas Academic Performance Report, PSJA ISD (16%) leads the Region (5%) and State (2%) in graduating more high school students with Associate Degrees. Through the nationally recognized PSJA Early College Program in partnership with South Texas College, Almaraz, a first-generation student, will be earning an Associate Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and is working towards an Industry-Based Certification as a Pharmacy Technician. This certification will allow her to become a phlebotomist and earn a competitive wage while she continues her post-secondary education at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in the future. 

 

As a first-generation student and the youngest in her family, the 17-year-old embodies the spirit of determination. Growing up in a household where education was cherished but not always within reach, Nicole witnessed her parents make numerous sacrifices to provide them a better life.  

 

"My parents are my heroes," she said with a smile. “Their journey to the US was all about giving us opportunities they never had. Right now, I am in high school earning two years of college, saving my parents money and getting a big load off their shoulders while saving time on my education.” 

 

For Nicole, the journey to success started with enrolling in PSJA's Early College program. Balancing high school and college coursework, she embraced the challenge with open arms. "It's been life-changing," she reflects. "Graduating with an Associate Degree while still in high school is not just a milestone for me but for my entire family." 

 

Nicole's achievements extend beyond academics. She is part of the Phlebotomy Technician Academy, where she's honing her skills for a future in healthcare. Her eyes sparkle with ambition as she talks about her plans to pursue a bachelor's degree and become a phlebotomist. 

  

But Almaraz's story is not just about personal triumph; it's about breaking cycles and inspiring others. Through PSJA's Dual Language Program, she's also mastering two languages, a skill that opens doors in today's globalized world. Through the program, Almaraz will be earning Seal of Biliteracy on her high school diploma which officially certifies her as bilingual and bi-literate. PSJA ISD is one of few districts in the state and the only in the Rio Grande Valley to offer a Biliteracy Seal to their students. Employers and education institutions recognize and validate PSJA’s Biliteracy Seal. 

  

As Nicole prepares to graduate, her message to fellow students is one of hope and determination.  

"Dream big," she urges. "No obstacle is too big to overcome. With hard work and support, anything is possible." 

  

PSJA ISD's Early College Program continues to be a beacon of hope, offering students like Nicole a chance to rewrite their futures. As the district welcomes new students for the upcoming school year, it invites everyone to be part of a journey where dreams take flight and barriers are shattered. 

 

The district is accepting students for the 2024-2025 school year. For more information about these programs and opportunities, visit: www.psjaisd.us/earlycollegeprogram. To schedule a campus tour or register, call 956.354.2167. 

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