Education report reveals Valley students are out-performing Texas peers

MERCEDES — Ramiro Tovar explained to an audience how he was able to enroll in medical school at UTRGV.

And it’s been a long road.

But his goal to become a good doctor all started with his drive to succeed and the vision local leaders had to ensure all Rio Grande Valley learners achieve a degree or credentials that lead to a meaningful career.

Tovar is one example proving RGV FOCUS — a collective impact initiative whose credo is “leaders united to change lives” — is working.

RGV FOCUS was launched in 2012 to transform college readiness in the Valley.

Tovar recalled to a group at South Texas ISD’S High School for the Health Professions yesterday morning that he had to wake up extra early everyday because he took a bus to school from Brownsville to Med High in Mercedes. He later graduated and went on to college to study bio-medical sciences.

“I was first in my class in college because of the training I received,” Tovar said. “I want to come back and practice medicine here.”

Tovar helped bring life to RGV FOCUS’s 28-page report released yesterday that details how high school and college students in the region are performing compared to their Texas peers.

“Today’s event is about us releasing the metrics that we are measuring our progress,” said Luzelma Canales, RGV FOCUS executive director.

The report spotlights successes along with areas needing improvement in educational attainment for Valley students.

Canales said the Valley is leading the state in eight out of 11 outcomes.

The outcomes range from high school graduation rates to FAFSA financial aid to advanced placement credit completion.

“While there is still much work to be done, we are very proud of the progress of our students and know it will pay off down the road,” said Dr. Stela Garcia, co-chair of RGV FOCUS and provost of Texas State Technical College Harlingen.

Funders supporting the FGV FOCUS are the Greater Texas Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, W.W. Caruth Jr. Foundation, Ford Foundation and Lumina Foundation.

“We credit the diverse leadership from the education, community, business and philanthropic sectors who have banded together to make certain our Rio Grande Valley students find success in high school, college and the workforce,” Garcia said.

The RGV FOCUS leadership team includes superintendents, presidents, CEOs and action networkers who work to try to eliminate barriers and challenges students and families have to go through to get into college.

“The Valley is doing a phenomenal job of opening up opportunities for students and that requires that they are college-ready and ready to go,” Canales said.