The cutting of the ribbon at UTRGV Harlingen Collegiate High celebrated the collaboration between Harlingen CISD, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and the city of Harlingen, a partnership that made the new high school a possibility.
The dream of having a school like UTRGV Harlingen Collegiate High began in 2007 with the opening of Early College High School at Texas State Technical College.
“As a school district we had a dream for our students to be inspired to pursue post-secondary education and what better place than to be at a post-secondary facility,” Superintendent Dr. Alicia Noyola said. “At the time, ECHS was only the second Early College High School in the entire RGV, now there is close to 40. In true HCISD fashion, a few years later, ECHS was designated by TEA as a showcase campus and a model for South Texas and our region on how to make collegiate partnerships with high schools possible.”
In 2019, after the city of Harlingen donated land for the project, HCISD and UTRGV signed an agreement to work together to build the new campus.
“What you see today is truly a dream come true for this community and the city,” Mayor Boswell said. “As we open the door to higher education, this is an opportunity for young people born and raised here in the city of Harlingen to actually complete a four-year university degree without having to leave the city limits. And that is a truly wonderful thing for the future, the ability to give them the tools and the education they need to succeed and to stay here in our city and region to contribute to the economy, the development of jobs, and other educational opportunities.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony featured several speakers including Principal of UTRGV Harlingen Collegiate High Dr. Pamela Flores, HCISD School Board President Gerry Fleuriet, HCISD Superintendent Dr. Alicia Noyola, Mayor Chris Boswell, UTRGV President Dr. Guy Bailey, and UT Board Regent Dr. Nolan Perez. Each speaker expressed gratitude for the partnership between UTRGV, HCISD, and the city of Harlingen.
“From our entire school board, I would like to express our appreciation to the fabulous and productive partnership, which dreamed the dream to make all of this happen for the students and the community,” Board President Gerry Fleuriet said. “Thank you to all of you who worked together in countless meetings to ensure that opportunities that have already begun right here, between all these gorgeous walls, were planned correctly. Through our partnership with UTRGV and the city of Harlingen, in this extraordinary, beautiful campus, oh my, our students really are a step ahead to becoming truly college, career, and community ready.”
UT Board Regent Dr. Nolan Perez proudly spoke about the impact that a school such as UTRGV Collegiate High would have on future generations.
“The future of Texas is taking shape right here in this facility,” Dr. Perez said. “And amazingly we are going to create homegrown teachers, homegrown computer scientists, homegrown engineers, and who knows what other opportunities because of just the academic core in the first two years they are going to get here. What an amazing day it is to create these opportunities for our students in this region. I can’t wait to see more of these across the Rio Grande Valley. This is in fact a paradigm in breaking down the silos between higher ed and public schools, just by creating pipeline programs where everything intersects.”
During his speech, UTRGV President Dr. Guy Bailey reflected on what inspired him to pursue a higher education as a first-generation college student.
“I graduated from high school a long time ago, and when I was growing up, I lived in an un-air-conditioned house and went to an un-air-conditioned school,” Dr. Bailey said. “I was just hot all the time. The first time I walked onto a college campus, every building was air-conditioned. I thought, ‘I want to be a college professor. I want to be in this environment.’ And the rest is history. The key thing for students is that this facility is for you. This is for you to be successful. Everything we do is for you.”
Students moved into the new campus on October 12.
“Our school features specialized classrooms that are designed to enhance and optimize instruction in engineering, computer science, and research-based practices of teaching while still offering our students the opportunity to complete the academic core,” UTRGV Harlingen Collegiate High principal Dr. Pamela Flores said. “The engineering lab features, 3D printers, a robotic arm, along with other modern high-tech equipment. Our teacher aspiring classroom offers a learning environment that provides students with the opportunity to both observe and exercise best practices in teaching. The computer science lab and curriculum will provide students with opportunities and an understanding of the interplay between theory and practice and as they acquire an in-depth knowledge of the computing field and its emerging technologies.”
Since its establishment, even before being called UTRGV Collegiate High, the school has received numerous honors including being named to the US News and World Report as one of the top high schools in the country.
“It’s not about the brick and mortar but about what happens inside,” Dr. Noyola said. “Still, when I think about the first day that our students walked into this facility, the look of pride and gratitude in their eyes, tells me that the facilities do matter. This 64,000 square foot building is a testament of what is possible when a school district, a university, and a community work together for the benefit of our students. As we look to the future, I challenge all of us to keep working together to expand opportunities for our students because it’s great collaborations like this that can turn dreams into realities.”