Valero Energy Foundation awards $8.4 million grant to San Antonio ISD

Grant will fund district's Pipeline for College Success program

By Troy Blevins - Graham Media Group

SAN ANTONIO - School officials say the San Antonio Independent School District -- through the SAISD Foundation -- has been awarded a five-year $8.4 million grant from Valero Energy Foundation.

The grant will fund the district's Pipeline for College Success program, which school officials said is a one-of-a-kind initiative in San Antonio and first for the state of Texas focused on increasing the number of students who enroll in and complete college.

The district is expanding its role to ensure that more students, especially first-generation college-goers, have exposure to college campuses prior to applying, and that those who are accepted enroll and have the district's support through the first year of college and beyond, school officials said.

"This new program, thanks to the Valero Energy Foundation, is going to be transformational for our District, where so many students are the first in their families to attend college," SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said. "College acceptance alone can no longer be the goal, and this new source of funding will allow us to be a support for our students even while they are in college, to help ensure their successful completion."

"The Valero Energy Foundation was created to make investments that improve the quality of people’s lives," said Joe Gorder, Valero Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer and VEF chairman. "This is a historic announcement for San Antonio and Texas because it features a unique collaboration between SAISD Public Schools, KIPP Charter Schools and Valero, all sharing one common goal: Educate and equip students for success."

School officials said grant funding, which began this school year, allows SAISD to provide for two new college-bound advisors at all seven comprehensive high schools to:

  • Increase the focus on college readiness
  • Increase the number of students going on to attend two-year and four-year colleges and universities
  • Triple the number of students who are able to participate in college tours
  • Establish an office that tracks SAISD graduates through college completion

The new Pipeline for College Success program will be instrumental in helping SAISD achieve its five-year college goals, which call for having 80 percent of graduates attend college, with 50 percent attending a four-year institution and 10 percent enrolled in a tier-one university, all by the year 2020, school officials said.

The funding follows a $3 million Valero grant in 2015 to KIPP San Antonio Public Schools for its KIPP Through College system, with a portion going to support a collaboration with SAISD to share best practices and improve student college-completion rates. School officials said the partnership began with a pilot program at Jefferson High School to adapt elements from the KTC system and includes ongoing professional development for counselors and advisors at all SAISD high schools.

The new grant will be used to add 14 full-time college-bound advisors to support seniors at each of SAISD's seven traditional high schools, with the district funding an additional college-bound advisor for each of its four non-traditional high schools, school officials said.

The new advisors will be dedicated to juniors and seniors, ensuring they are bound for success after high school. School officials said this will free up existing college-readiness counselors at each high school to focus on students in earlier years and ensuring they are engaging in college-readiness activities.

Funding will also be used to create the postsecondary support office, which school officials said will be staffed by two alumni support coordinators to track students through college. The office will be dedicated to supporting students after high school graduation to encourage college completion.

To help ensure more students see college as part of their future, SAISD will use grant money to cover the cost of annual college visits across the country for 250 students, significantly increasing the number of high-achieving students who are able to participate in a proven successful program, school officials said.

Valero Energy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Valero Energy Corporation.

Copyright 2017 by KSAT - All rights reserved.