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Eight PSJA ISD Schools to benefit from $3.1 Million Community Forestry Program Grant Awarded to the City of Pharr

Eight PSJA ISD Schools to benefit from $3.1 Million Community Forestry Program Grant Awarded to the City of Pharr

Grant to enhance campus outdoor learning classrooms, develop school yard forests  

PHARR— Eight schools in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD will benefit from a recent Texas A&M Forest Service Community Forestry Program grant awarded to the City of Pharr. This $3.1 million grant, which also supports the cities of San Juan and Alamo, aims to promote environmental stewardship and educational enrichment, significantly enhancing the campuses. 

The goal of the Community Forestry Grants program is to build healthier urban and community forests throughout the state which are essential for the economic, environmental, physical and mental well-being of all Texans. The strategy of these grants is to spearhead local programs across the state in addressing nature-based solutions to issues facing communities today.   

The grants will directly fund recipients’ tree planting, maintenance and community forestry planning and education efforts as part of their larger, unique urban forestry solution campaigns. The program also places a key emphasis on increasing schoolyard tree canopy coverage to 30% of a school’s campus to create accessible community treescapes. 

The eight PSJA ISD schools slated for native habitat improvements under the grant include: Vida N. Clover Elementary in San Juan, Marcia Garza Elementary in Alamo, Graciela Garcia Elementary in Pharr, John Doedyns Elementary in San Juan, Dr. William Long Elementary in Pharr, Liberty Middle School in Pharr, Raul Yzaguirre Middle School in San Juan, and Audie Murphy Middle School in Alamo. Through the enhancement of tree canopy coverage, these campuses will transform into vibrant green spaces, offering numerous benefits to both students and the community. 

The enhancement of the tree canopy coverage not only mitigates the urban heat island effect but also cultivates a diverse biological habitat crucial for an ecological balance. Additionally, the grant will help students learn forest literacy by engaging in interdisciplinary reading and writing curriculum. 

During the grant presentation held on Monday, May 20, 2024, at the Pharr City Hall, PSJA Superintendent Dr. Alejandro Elias expressed his gratitude for the partnership's positive impact and emphasized the program's integration into the district's curriculum.  

“The efforts to improve the native habitat in our schools in our tri-cities is commendable, and we are grateful that our partnership continues to positively impact our students’ well-being and education,” said Dr. Elias. “The Community Forestry Program is aligned with our sustainability initiative, which only helps to solidify the work we are doing at PSJA and in the community.” 

The Community Forestry Program extends beyond planting trees, actively engaging the community, offering opportunities for involvement and connection to available spaces for the betterment of health and well-being. By fostering a sense of responsibility and sensitivity to the environment, our partners will serve as beacons of inspiration, attracting potential investors, donors, and future collaborators. 

To ensure the sustained success of this endeavor, PSJA ISD plans to integrate the relevant native habitat curriculum as part of the district’s commitment to increasing awareness, education, and sustainability. Through collaborations with the district’s Maintenance Department, many PSJA ISD schools currently have Outdoor Learning Classrooms, which include butterfly or vegetable gardens and ponds. Some also have city-school parks and trails.  

A comprehensive plan, led by a team of dedicated professionals and overseen by a committee comprising school principals and community stakeholders, will guide the program's implementation. This approach ensures adaptability and efficacy, guaranteeing that the project evolves alongside community needs and environmental challenges. 

Strategic efforts to secure additional funding will continue, with the City of Pharr pledging to seek future grants. This demonstrates a true commitment to project longevity and ensuring a lasting impact for generations to come within the PSJA community.

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PSJA Community Forestry Grant