In the Rio Grande Valley, we believe that our "familia" includes all students. Join educators and the broader community in ensuring that students receive the education they deserve and our community's future demands.
"To survive the Borderlands / you must live sin fronteras / be a crossroads."
― Gloria E. Anzaldúa
Naturally situated on a physical border of the Rio Grande river (know as the Rio Bravo in Mexico), the Rio Grande Valley sits at the crossroads of two nations with intertwined history, culture, and language. For much of its history, the region has been characterized or defined by what it lacks. Increasingly confident, the local community is communicating its own narrative with a strong emphasis on family and community. Together, leaders from across sectors are stating that we can—and must—provide higher quality educational options for all students.
As issues swirl in the national consciousness about identity, immigration, and our future, educators in the Rio Grande Valley have been slowly changing the odds. In a community where more than 85 percent of students are classified as economically disadvantaged, regional educational indicators have been increasingly able to catch up to, and in many cases surpass, the state average. In the past, the expectation might have been to graduate high school but now families and communities are demanding more opportunities for students to pursue higher education, including a new university and medical school.
Educators are highly respected leaders in the community and given flexibility to innovate and develop additional solutions and pathways for students. Teach For America partners with a wide variety of school districts to infuse leadership of our corps members and alumni and continue to fuel the current change as we work towards greater educational opportunities for all students.
Students are classified as economically disadvantaged
High school graduates are deemed college-ready
“Recently, I returned to teach in the same International Baccalaureate program I attended in high school. One of my teachers was a TFA alumna at the time and she is the one who just recruited me back! I recently earned master's degree in educational leadership and plan to have a long-term impact on improving the education of my home community.”
Rio Grande Valley at a Glance
Hidalgo County is home to many neighboring towns and small cities and has a large concentration of stores, restaurants, and housing options. Corps members currently teach in the towns of La Joya, Penitas, Palmview, Mission, McAllen, Edinburg, Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, Donna, Weslaco, Mercedes, Edcouch, and Elsa. Many corps members who are not from the region are surprised at the high level of development and amenities in this part of the region.
Starr County contains our rural placements in the town of Roma. Most corps members rent very inexpensive houses close to their school and enjoy the ability to run, bike, and explore the less developed part of the region.
Cameron County lies on the Gulf of Mexico and has a mix of small cities and towns. Corps members currently teach in the towns of Harlingen, San Benito, and Brownsville. A strong network of highways mean corps members are never too far away from friends or training located in other parts of the region. Many housing options exist in this county from new apartment complexes to shared houses for rent.
In 2012, after the superintendents of 11 of 39 Valley school districts and other community leaders recognized they had to do more to prepare Valley students for the demands of college and the labor market, they helped form RGV Focus.
This regional collective impact initiative now works on behalf of all 340,000 students in the region to ensure that all RGV learners achieve a degree or credential which leads to a meaningful career.
The organization has helped raise awareness of the connection between poverty, economic opportunity, and educational attainment. It publishes annual reports on a variety of measures, such as high school graduation rates, college enrollment and completion, and employment statistics. These reports compare the performance of Valley schools, colleges, and students to their peers elsewhere in the state and across the nation. As evidence of the collective focus on college success, students in the Valley are more likely than their peers elsewhere in Texas to take Advanced Placement courses or earn an International Baccalaureate diploma. Nearly 60 percent of the region’s students earn some college credit through 37 early college high schools and other programs by the time they graduate from high school.
RGV Focus got off the ground with the help of Educate Texas, a public-private partnership that is helping start such efforts in communities around the state. Collective impact strategies bring together many different groups and institutions to analyze a community’s educational issues, establish an overall goal, create strategies to reach that goal, identify key indicators, and agree on appropriate progress metrics. One of the weakest academic indicators in the region is college readiness which is a current focus of this initiative.
RGV Focus is led by its executive director, Luzelma Canales, who is also on the Teach For America regional advisory board. Teach For America alumnus, Eugenio Longoria Saenz (DC Region ’97), is the deputy director.
Our Regional Partners
We value our partnerships with local schools, districts, universities, businesses, and other organizations. Our partners play a critical role in creating opportunities for children in our communities.
- Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District
- Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District
- IDEA Public Schools
- La Joya Independent School District
- Mercedes Independent School District
- McAllen Independent School District
- Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District
- Roma Independent School District
- San Benito Consolidated Independent School District