Last school year, The Academies of La Joya ISD were introduced into our district and have since transformed secondary education into one that exposes students to real world careers. Along with offering industry skills, internships, and job shadowing opportunities to students, a major component of the Academies’ overall success are the partnerships formed between the school district and businesses.

This key factor (business and community engagement) has productively developed into La Joya ISD affiliating with over 30 companies who currently help students gain 21st century skills and assist in career guidance. Businesses such as Workforce Solutions, State Farm Arena, Embassy Suites, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, South Texas College, and neighboring city officials, are only a handful of the many other corporations who (together with La Joya ISD) have become true partners in the education of the children we serve.

Throughout the progression of The Academies of La Joya ISD, students belonging to any of the 5 academies: (Academy of STEM, Business & Industry, Public Service, Arts & Humanities, and the Academy of Health Science Professions) have been participants of speaker presentations and fieldtrips, as well as performed hands-on labor with our business partners. These types of experiences are what allow academy students to venture into different careers in order to discover a passion or to pursue a career that connects with them.

Recently 29 student ambassadors (representing all 5 academies) took part in a daylong job fair of over 175 employers hosted by Workforce Solutions. Students were encouraged to partake in the question and answer interaction between potential employees and businesses and to be attentive of the conversations held regarding skills and requirements for specific jobs. They also assisted with booth setups, engaged with employers, and got the opportunity to ask plenty of questions to the various industries that were present.

“Our students were being given the opportunity through our partnership with Workforce Solutions to see first hand what the various employers are looking for in terms of skill sets and education,” stated Ms. Juliana Q. Garza, Business & Community Engagement Specialist at La Joya ISD.

And where fieldtrips are concerned, the La Joya ISD Academy of Fine Arts was the first group of students – ever, to be granted a behind-the-scenes tour of the State Farm Arena. Students learned about stage engineering, the marketing logistics of concerts, and customer service and finance aspects of running an events venue. By the same token, a trip to Embassy Suites hotel allowed academy students to gain a better understanding of the world of hospitality and tourism. There, students not only toured the world-class facility, but visited with the hotel chef and office staff to inquire about the kinds of trainings, qualifications and education necessary to fill those types of careers.

For the students enrolled in the Academy of Health Science Professions and STEM, the partnerships with Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and Rio Grande Regional Hospital have proven to be beneficial in a multitude of ways. Presently, students are being trained to test individuals for diabetes and asthma and will implement their preparation on the 4th grade students of La Joya ISD.

“Although our students have always been screened by the school nurse for Vision, Hearing, Scoliosis, and Acanthosis Nigricans, they are not screened for Asthma or have a thorough Diabetes screening done,” said Marissa Morales RN, District Nurse Coordinator. “Now that we are going to have our own qualified high school students screening our 4th graders for both Diabetes and Asthma, students who are uninsured or underinsured (and don’t normally have the access to healthcare) can be identified early and will be referred to a free or low cost health clinic as needed,” Morales added.

In addition to medical hands-on experience, academy students also joined the Tommy Hilfiger outlet store team during the Thanksgiving break to experience “Black Friday” retail and to test their customer service skills. The direct student-to-real-world connection of working with customers under real stress allowed students to gain insight into the nature of customer service.

“Working at the store and under real life pressure makes me appreciate salespeople a lot more and allowed me to work on my customer service skills – plus I really enjoyed the experience,” stated Palmview High School student, Ernesto Jimenez.

The creation of The Academies of La Joya ISD continues to transform teaching and learning in large part because of the many businesses we call Our Partners. It is through these diverse civic and business engagements that every student in The Academies of La Joya ISD can experience education differently and gain a true perspective of careers available in the real world. La Joya ISD is grateful to all business and community partners and looks forward to the many more life-changing experiences that are yet to come for our students.