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Students save college costs, get ahead by earning associates degrees in SISD early colleges

Students that earned associate degrees

One hundred and twenty-seven students from Socorro Independent School District’s early college programs earned their associate degrees this spring while they worked toward their high school diplomas.

Students at Trailblazers Early College at Americas High School, Socorro Early College at Socorro High School, Rams Early College at Montwood High School and Mission Early College High School took advantage of Team SISD’s endless opportunities by getting the head start in their college education.

The early college programs are offered at every comprehensive high school in the district, along with Mission Early College, in partnership with El Paso Community College. The first cohort of early college graduates at Eastlake, El Dorado and Pebble Hills high schools are projected for the Class of 2023.

Trailblazers, Socorro, Rams and Mission early college high school programs had virtual stole and cord ceremonies for their students, inviting their parents and family members who placed the stoles and cords on the graduating seniors to commemorate earning their associate’s degrees.

Americas High Schools’ Trailblazer Early College honored their first spring graduating cohort with a virtual ceremony May 19, where 33 students received their stoles from their parents, families, and loved ones at home.

“We just felt like we needed to celebrate our students because with this pandemic we didn’t get to see them very much and we just didn’t want them to forget that this is a big accomplishment,” said Carlos Sandoval, Americas High School assistant principal and director of the Trailblazers Early College program.

Students and their parents were thankful for the opportunity to celebrate the proud accomplishment displaying lots of happy smiles on screen.

“The experience was pretty special and it’s a big relief that after all these hard years of work we are done,” said Daniel Mendoza, an Americas High School senior and TEC graduate. “I especially am proud of being part of the first class because that makes me a true trailblazer.”

Twenty-one Socorro Early College students received their stoles in a virtual celebration May 19. Families and friends showed pride and excitement for their graduates.

“This celebration is very important because this is how we help our students create memories,” said Edgar Ponce, Socorro High School assistant principal and director of the Socorro Early College program. “I always try to remind our students to cherish what they currently have because what we experience today will be a memory by tomorrow morning.”

Jaime Minjarez, a Socorro High School senior and SEC graduate said his hard work has officially paid off after four years.

“I am very proud of myself and I can’t wait for what is coming for me next,” Minjarez said. “I’m glad I could take advantage of the opportunity to save time and money for college.”

Forty-two Rams Early College students earned their associate degree this spring and celebrated with their friends and family members in a virtual ceremony May 18.

“These are students who excel early in their high school career and it’s such a great feeling to see them earn their stoles,” said Orlando Hairston, Montwood High School assistant principal and director of Rams Early College. “There’s nothing like watching them achieve the goals they have set for themselves.”

Many were resilient and overcame various obstacles to earn their associate degrees, putting in extra hours and dedication to achieve the significant milestone.

“I honestly did not think that I could push myself this hard,” said Marco Hinojosa, senior at Montwood High School and REC graduate. “I was really influenced by my family, my teachers and my friends to help me reach this goal of mine.”

Thirty-one students at Mission Early College High School earned their associate degrees this spring as they celebrated in a virtual cord and stole ceremony May 12.

“This is a very special group of students,” said Drew Dungan, a journalism teacher at MECHS. “The initiative they had to take in order to get here today, I believe has prepared them for the real world.”

MECHS students who received their associates degrees could not be prouder.

“I feel like this is a big steppingstone towards my career path,” said Adriel Bustillos, junior at MECHS. “I believe my school has helped me tremendously get here today and not even being a high school senior yet motivates me more.”

SISD, in partnership with EPCC, offers the most early college programs in the region with a program at each comprehensive high school within the district. SISD was the first in the region to open an early college high school with Mission Early College High School in 2006.

The district opened three more early college programs within a three-year span: Socorro Early College in 2015, Rams Early College in 2016, and Trailblazers Early College in 2017.

The district then opened Falcon Early College at Eastlake High School, Empire Early College at El Dorado High School, and Pebble Hills Early College at Pebble Hills High School in 2019.

Published June 16, 2021

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