The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the HCISD Transition Academy kicked off to the beat of the Harlingen High School Jazz Band on the morning of April 29.
The Harlingen High School Coffee Club served guests as they arrived. Members from the district and the community gathered to celebrate the historical moment.
“Our transition academy is a true testament of our district’s commitment to innovation and a direct response to the needs of our students and our community,” Director of Special Education Dan Garza said. “There has been much support for this project and without our incredible school board and superintendents who are committed to providing nothing but the best for our special needs students, this project would not have come to fruition. The outpouring of support from our Harlingen Partners has been tremendous and we are forever grateful to be part of this community that is truly vested in our students.”
Superintendent Dr. Alicia Noyola shared what the vision for the transition academy was like from the very start.
“Very early on, when we were having the discussion around this building, we did a lot of visits and looked at other places, but we never quite found what was right for Harlingen,” Dr. Noyola said.
She told the audience how when discussing the plans for the transition academy, the previous Superintendent, Dr. Art Cavazos would say, “No, think bigger. Think bigger.”
Then, Dr. Noyola held out her hand, palm side up, and gestured towards the custom-made home, the HCISD Transition Academy. “Bigger,” she said in response.
Several board members and a Transition Academy Committee member also addressed the audience at this event.
Board President Eladio Jaimez talked about how this home would impact the entire community.
“These buildings that we see, these facilities, they don’t benefit just the students, but they impact the entire community as a whole and make Harlingen a better place to live,” Jaimez said.
Board Secretary Bobby Muniz shared the meaning of this academy to his family and him.
“A lot of you know that I have a special needs child Ariel,” Dr. Muniz said. “Ariel is five years old. She is a blessing to me and my family and to a lot of people in this community. When my wife was 17 weeks pregnant, they told us that she would not live, but I can tell you that she is alive and thriving, and she will be part of the transition academy.”
Meredith Brownell, a teacher, a parent, and an HCISD Transition Academy committee member shared additional details about what would be available for students through the transition academy.
“My son Wyatt who is here in the audience today is a proud junior in the life skills program at Harlingen South,” Brownell said. “The opportunity that the academy is going to give my son and other students is just simply amazing. While at the house, students will be offered courses such as Floral Design, Career Prep 1 and 2, Independent Living, and Practicum in Business Management. In the community, students will be able to work at places like Chick-Fil-A, Peter Piper Pizza, Home Depot, and Charlie Clark Nissan. Through this academy, students will develop skills that will enable them to participate successfully in society, and that has long been a goal of our district.”
After the ceremony, several groups of school and community members and future Transition Academy students took photos at the front of the house, cut the ribbon, and then toured the home.
“One of the things that I have learned and confirmed through my experience in education is that every student can contribute to this world if given the chance,” Dr. Noyola said. “I look forward to the years to come and seeing our children practicing and learning in this educational facility, really this home, our HCISD Transition Academy.”