photoPictured are Dr. Hafedh Azaiez, DISD Superintendent; Dr. Cornelio Gonzalez, Region One Executive Director; and Melissa I. Lopez, Director of Region One ESC College, Career, & Life Readiness.

Two Donna ISD middle schools received nearly $1.5 million in federal funds to help better prepare their students for college and successful careers.

Veterans and Sauceda Middle Schools were selected as recipients of the funding. DISD Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez was in attendance when details were released at a news conference held recently at the Region One Education Services Center in Edinburg.  Region One administrators announced that they had been awarded two grants from the United States Department of Education totaling $77 million for its Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) to be used over the next seven years. Donna ISD’s portion was part of the “College, Ready, Set!” grant.

“We are ecstatic and grateful for Region One’s support in seeking federal funding to assist Donna ISD and other South Texas school districts better prepare our students to succeed in high school, college and in their future careers,” Dr. Azaiez said. “These grant monies are coming at a time when our district is seeing less funding from the state level. It will help us focus on areas that need attention.”

DISD Intake and Student Engagement Director Lydia Lugo will oversee the “College, Ready, Set! grant and its operations. She said Veterans and Sauceda Middle Schools were selected for the grant because of their economically disadvantaged student population and other criteria.  The funding will go toward college preparation material and programs that expose students to both career and college-bound pathways.

“The grant program will target every seventh grade student enrolled at Veterans and Sauceda Middle Schools,” Lugo said. “The program will follow the students throughout their middle school career and continue on to their respective high school – Donna North High School. This grant will also allow for our students to be monitored during their first year of college. We are confident that this program will make a difference in the lives of our students and help them be successful in their post-secondary endeavors.”

The funding will also be used to hire a GEAR-UP facilitator at both Sauceda and Veterans. “The facilitators are crucial,” Lugo said. “They will lead these two campuses in ensuring all aspects of the grant are achieved.”

The grant became effective immediately and Donna ISD is in the process of hiring the facilitators and implementing the program.