Striking a ‘HIGHER’ goal


Gabriel Guzmán

El Paso Community College’s Valle Verde campus has created Project HIGHER for their Center of Students with Disabilities to help bring access to tutoring, coaching, advising, and materials.

Eugenio Cantu, Contributor

The path to success is paved with hard work and big dreams and it is also a path that is very different for everyone where people need great mentors to guide them every step of the way. El Paso Community College (EPCC) has successfully created another step for students to achieve their goals.  

As part of the Valle Verde campus and their Center of Students with Disabilities (CSD), Project HIGHER is an initiative whichbrings tutoring, coaching, advising and materials to students with various disabilities. 

It consists of nine certificates within EPCC majors, not only accommodating their needs but giving college support. 

Students are not required to take the TSI or do any of the university core curriculum, instead every student who applies goes through a review process by Volar Independent Living Center (CIL) Committee which directly accepts and places them within the program. 

Currently, there are 25 spots, each carrying over to graduation, given their necessary support every step of the way.  

Ever since its conception in 2015 in EPCC, it has had 36 graduates, with a high retention rate; some of them continuing to pursue their associate degree and others working for organizations such as Children with Disabilities: Youth Leadership. Their current graduating class will be the largest with eight graduates this Spring.  

Four agencies came together to collaborate on the project. Volar CIL created the admission committee, University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) provided interns and counselors, Region 19 Educational Services Center as additional research and educators, and Texas Workforce provided funding for these positions. 

The positions would eventually be incorporated into the EPCC system, creating better opportunities as well as expanding the project into the campus.  

Even during the pandemic, Project HIGHER didn’t shut down but faced its own challenges.  

“The manager position was frozen as well as others,” said CSD Director and EPCC alumni Maria Lopez.

Before Lopez took on the position two years ago, she had been working for EPCC for over 20 years. Lopez explained both her and Alejandra Mendoza were hired during the middle of the pandemic.  

“We faced our own difficulties, but we keep pushing,” Mendoza said. 

In Project HIGHER it seems that nothing can stop the progress of success and that any student’s intellect can overcome any challenge and they can always reach for ‘HIGHER’ dreams.  

Eugenio Cantu is a contributor and may be reached at [email protected]