PSJA ISD special needs students compete at state dance competition in Dallas, earn 1st place

Students are part of district’s Pathways Toward Independence/LIFE Program

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Texas Border Business

PHARR – Four students enrolled in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD’s (PSJA ISD) Pathways Toward Independence/LIFE (PSJA PTI) Program earned 1st place overall at the Dupree Dance Convention & Competition held April 9-11, 2021, in Dallas, Texas. 

The students, Jailen Guajardo, Gaby Vásquez, Celinda Escobedo and Nahitza Hurtado, earned a Diamond Rating and 1st place for their group performance of a salsa style dance. Additionally, Jailen Guajardo earned a Platinum Rating and 1st place overall for her performance in a duet. 

The PSJA Pathways Toward Independence Program (PSJA PTI) promotes the continued development of vocational training skills and/or functional independent living skills to assist special needs students ages 14 to 21 in becoming emergent adults in the community.  

According to Celinda Escobedo’s mother, Belinda Escobedo, seeing her daughter shine on stage along with her classmates was a very special experience. 

“We were all so happy to see them there. It was incredible to see them realize they could do it,” she said. “The PSJA PTI Program has helped boost their confidence tremendously. My daughter’s success in dance has been an effort of everyone in her life, her teachers, and everyone in the program who believes in her.” 

In addition to being an active dancer through opportunities offered through the Capable Kids Foundation, Escobedo shared that her daughter has participated in classes through PSJA PTI like photography, floral design, culinary arts, and a training through Texas Workforce Solutions for employment. Celinda will be graduating in June 2021 from the PSJA PTI/LIFE. 

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“As a parent, I’m so grateful for the opportunity available for students,” said Escobedo. “I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to see that there is finally acceptance and inclusion.” 

The PSJA PTI Program has increased in popularity over the recent years as a successful initiative ensuring special needs students receive independent living and employability skills. Other school districts in the area and throughout the state have visited the program in hopes of replicating it. It has also been featured by the Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath in recent statewide publications highlighting successful educational programs. 

PSJA ISD welcomes students living anywhere in the Rio Grande Valley. Registration for the 2021-2022 school year remains open. Interested parents can visit for more information. 

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