HAEF fundraises for transition academy furnishings and additional projects

As the opening of the HCISD Transition Academy approaches, the Harlingen Area Educational Foundation has set up multiple fundraisers to purchase tools and supplies for the educational facility while also raising funds to assist with additional projects in and around the home.

On February 1, HAEF hosted a Facebook live tour of the home where they shared information about the current and future plans.

“Two years ago, HCISD decided to continue to innovate while continuing to meet the needs of our special education students,” HCISD Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Dr. Joseph Villarreal said. “We wanted to provide a place where students could equip themselves with life and employability skills in a real-world environment, and that is how the HCISD Transition Academy came about.”

Dr. Villarreal led the virtual tour of the home.

“So here we enter through the front door, and we come upon this beautiful area right here where we will have a dining room table for our students as well as a fully equipped kitchen,” he said. “Here, students are going to learn how to cook food, chop fruits and vegetables, and set the table.”

Throughout the tour, Dr. Villarreal pointed out ADA features available in the home such as wide hallways and a walk-in shower that allowed wheelchair accessibility. He also continued to describe in great detail what each room would provide.

“We will be installing vanities here for students to learn how to groom themselves and how to prepare for a job interview,” Dr. Villarreal said as walked into one of the empty bedrooms. “On the other side of the house we have two dens, and that is where students are going to learn job skills. Students are going to learn how to produce crafts in one den. In the other den, there will be computers which students can use to search for jobs and work on their resumes.”

As he walked by or into other areas of the house, Dr. Villarreal mentioned several other skills students would practice such as washing, drying, folding, and hanging clothes, making a bed, and cleaning a restroom – skills needed to maintain a home and live more independently.

At the end of the tour, HAEF President Belinda Zapata told the Facebook live audience how the community could get involved in this initiative.

“When a new home goes up, the first thing that we want to do is welcome whoever is going to come here and be part of this new home,” Zapata said.  “So HAEF thought, why not have a housewarming?”

 The new website allows users to purchase items from a Target registry or click on a link to donate. The Target registry will provide furnishings for the various rooms in the house. The monetary donations will be used for additional projects such as an outdoor shed, a walking trail, a sensory garden, a rain cistern, and an outdoor patio with tables and umbrellas. More information can be found at

In January, HAEF hosted a four-day Texas Roadhouse fundraiser where 10% of sales would be donated to the foundation.

“From that fundraiser, we are receiving a check for $2,000 this week,” HAEF Vice President Maru De la Paz said. “We are very appreciative of everything the community has done to support the foundation, to support the transition academy, and of course, HCISD.”

 Some fundraising events are currently in progress while others are being planned to take place throughout the school year.

“During a pandemic, people just focus on mitigating the circumstances around the pandemic, but the HAEF Board and the Student Advisory Board are also looking for opportunities to make a difference,” HCISD Superintendent Emeritus Dr. Art Cavazos said.

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