Tuesday, September 15, 2020

By Letty Fernandez

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – The first day of class for high school students at St. Joseph Academy (SJA) in Brownsville began Aug. 31. But, 73 of SJA’s high school juniors and seniors started a week earlier.  

Those students are enrolled in a dual credit program taught by UTRGV professors. In addition to their high school courses, they are taking college English, history, literature and music (depending on grade level) and meet twice a week.  

While still in high school, they will earn up to 24 college credits – which allows them to get a jump on college and gives them an edge – while still at SJA.  

Gabriel Kauachi, a Brownsville senior who plans to study political science and international relations in college, has a full schedule, with taking UTRGV classes online and SJA classes online. So far, though, everything has gone smoothly, he said.  

“I always want to challenge myself and look for the best possible classes and do the most rigorous curriculum that I can take,” he said. “They always tell us that colleges are looking at our transcripts and want to see that we are taking the harder classes. So, there is nothing better than for a college to see that you already taking college classes in high school.” 

Michael Aldape, UTRGV director of Special Programs who overseeing dual credit programs, was on hand in January when UTRGV and SJA administrators signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing the Dual Credit program that would bring UTRGV professors to SJA’s campus to deliver instruction. 

“Establishing the partnership with Saint Joseph Academy has been a professional pleasure for me. The school’s administrative and counseling team are committed educators who truly prioritize student success,” Aldape said. “I look forward to nurturing this partnership to fulfill our core priorities of student success and expanding educational opportunities for students in the region.” 

Michael Motyl, president of SJA, calls the partnership a “game changer” and one of the bright spots in this challenging school year.  

“We are excited for this one-of-a-kind opportunity for our students to earn college credits and experience the college learning environment with UTRGV instructors leading the class,” Motyl said. “This program will undoubtedly give our students an advantage as they navigate the transition from high school to college studies.”  

UTRGV lecturers Lilia Garcia and Jim Mills had planned to teach at SJA this fall, but the COVID19 pandemic forced them to teach online.

An alumna of SJA, Garcia began her teaching career at SJA.  

“For me, this is very special. I am teaching a subject I have great passion for. I try to encompass art, culture, as well as economics and politics in my classes. It is also exciting to teach this class during an election year and with so much going on.”

UTRGV maintains partnerships with school districts throughout the region, some of which have multiple campuses with students who participate in dual credit. The university is serving 810 high school students between dual credit, early college and the UTRGV Mathematics, and Science Academy (MSA). 

To learn more about the dual enrollment program, visit https://www.utrgv.edu/undergraduate-admissions/dual-credit/index.htm.  


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.