SISD Enrollment Continues to Increase: The Socorro Independent School District achieved an all-time high enrollment, surpassing 48,000 students in January 2023. The previous record high of 47,000 students was set in 2019. “We are the fastest-growing school district in El Paso County, and the substantial increase in our student population mirrors our rapidly growing community in far east El Paso, City of Socorro and Horizon City,” said SISD Superintendent Nate Carman. The El Paso Independent School District is the region’s largest with 50,333 students and the Ysleta Independent School District is the third largest with 36,150 students.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, at left, presents a $2.4 million check to Ray Tullius, founder and executive director of the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, to build the center’s La Casa de Los Abuelitos, a shelter for older frail men, on Monday. (Courtesy Opportunity Center for the Homeless)

Casa de Los Abuelitos to Shelter Older Men: The Opportunity Center for the Homeless received nearly $2.5 million in federal funds to build a new shelter and housing for elderly homeless men on Brown Street in South Central El Paso. La Casa de Los Abuelitos will have 34 transitional and permanent beds. A construction timeline is pending. The money is part of the $25 million U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, secured for 14 community projects in the region through the Consolidated Appropriations Act.

“It’s like moving dominoes to make everything work as the challenges keep changing,” Ray Tuilius, founder and executive director of the Opportunity Center, said following a check presentation ceremony on Monday. “What never changes is that there’s always a need.”

The Opportunity Center opened La Casa de las Abuelitas on Myrtle Avenue to serve older women, most 60 or older, in 2016. The center is in the middle of its Growing Together Capital Campaign, which is looking to raise $7.5 million for five projects, including a Veterans Transitional Living Center and the expansion of the Women’s Resource Center.

UTEP College of Education Awarded $4.3 Million: The  U.S. Department of Education recently awarded UTEP’s College of Education two grants totaling more than $4.3 million. One $1.5 million grant will establish the Augustus F. Hawkins Center of Excellence in Hispanic Teacher Preparation to bolster the number of bilingual teachers in the region. The university will work with seven area school districts under the program. A second grant of more than $2.8 million will support an initiative called Learning, Encouraging, and Planning to Uplift Performance. The program will recruit current teachers to pursue bilingual education/dual language or English as Second Language graduate certificates.

“This work is vital because UTEP produces 70% of the teachers in local schools,” Clifton Tanabe, dean of the College of Education, said in a statement. “This support from the Department of Education will enable UTEP to accelerate and elevate the transformational teacher preparation work we are pursuing here in El Paso.”