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UTPA joins Mission CISD and STC in launching new initiative
By Special to UTPA
Posted: 02/21/2007
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For the first time a Rio Grande Valley school district – Mission CISD – will join forces with The University of Texas-Pan American and South Texas College to make sure every high school senior completes a college application.

The new initiative – Operation College Bound – will launch Feb. 27-28 at Mission High School and Veterans Memorial High School, respectively. UTPA, STC and Mission school district staff will work together for the full-day of activities, which not only assures the high school seniors apply for both colleges, but also file for financial aid.

“We are trying to remove obstacles that tend to stand in the way of some students attending college,” said Oscar Rodriguez, Mission CISD superintendent. “The paperwork can be intimidating to many people. Operation College Bound will give us the resources to better help our 750 seniors complete the application requirements for the two colleges our students attend the most.”

Rodriguez said both colleges jumped at the opportunity to try this new approach in helping students make the leap from high school to college.

“We would never be able to tackle something this large without their support,” Rodriguez said. “This is a huge undertaking by everyone involved.”

Dr. John Edwards, UTPA vice president for enrollment and student services, said he is excited and honored that Mission CISD has chosen both UTPA and STC to partner with in the initiative. Edwards said Operation College Bound is the first step towards a college education for the Mission seniors.

“Initiatives like this help to set the precedent that all students can attend college. Superintendent Rodriguez and the entire Mission CISD staff should be commended for their commitment to the future of their students. He is a leader in creating the mindset that all Valley students will go on to higher education after high school graduation.”

William Serrata, vice president for student services and development for STC, echoed Edwards’ feelings about the partnership and Rodriguez’s efforts.

“This is an exciting and unique venture that will ensure that every Mission high school senior graduating this year has two viable alternatives for higher education – what an amazing accomplishment for the school district,” Serrata said.

Operation College Bound will also offer a variety of breakout sessions designed to help prepare the students for college life as well as demystify the whole process of going to college.

In addition to personnel, UTPA and STC will be providing more than 100 laptop computers to compliment the campus computer labs for online completion of application and financial aid forms. The colleges will also provide supplemental Internet access.

For Operation College Bound to be successful, parental involvement will be required. In order for students to complete the financial aid application, parents must provide completed 2006 income tax returns. To help parents file their income tax returns, UTPA and STC are coordinating access to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) on two evenings leading up to the Operation College Bound events. Through VITA, volunteers will help individuals fill out their income tax returns (1040A or 1040 EZ0). VITA volunteers are scheduled from 4-7 p.m. at Mission High School Feb. 22 and Veterans Memorial High School Feb. 26.