Sixty miles from our regional office in McAllen is the small, rural of town of Roma, Texas, home to one of the oldest Teach For America-Rio Grande Valley partnerships. For over a decade, corps members and non-Teach For America teachers in this small border town have worked together to bring their students to New England for a college visit. Having grown up in one of the poorest counties in the country for many students this trip, which is funded by countless hours of nacho sales and carwashes, have never been outside of Texas except to Mexico.
In partnership with colleagues and the community, corps members teaching in Roma have insisted on rigorous college-focused instruction in subjects like AP English. Their work helped lead to the first Roma students passing advanced placement exams in a number of courses, including literature, English, U.S. history, and world history. Corps members have also integrated a curriculum of social justice, giving students the tools and space to tell their story and think of their community as an asset. As a result, students in Roma have more options and possibilities than they once had.
Many of our corps members live and work in the City of the Pharr in the mid-Valley. In Pharr, most corps members share apartments or houses and many live in close enough proximity to one another to get together for potluck dinners and lesson planning. Corps members who live in Pharr have easy access to malls, restaurants, and movies theaters where they are likely to run into their students. Many of our longest serving alumni work in the Pharr-San Juan- Alamo Independent School district, which has been hailed by the US Department of Education for its Dropout Recovery Program, which enables students to earn their high school diploma while also taking college courses.
Corps members who are not already certified gain certification during their first year of teaching through Region One's Project P.a.C.E. Alternative Certification Program by completing 300 hours of professional development among other requirements. Certification requires approximately $500 in upfront fees and testing costs and then monthly payments of $340 for ten months. We work with corps members who are already certified in another state in transferring their certificate to the State of Texas.
While corps members cannot use their AmeriCorps Educational Award for Project P.a.C.E., many choose to use it after their first year of teaching to pursue a master’s degree through the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley or an online program.