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  • Writer's pictureCollege 1st Program

PSJA Ballew High School Students Bring Business to Life

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

Gabriella Solis, senior, watches as her personalized entrepreneurial logo is laser printed onto an insulated tumbler, labelled with her name and business: “Gabriella: Handy Crafty Creations.” Photo by: Christian Chacon

Written By: Abigail M. Avila

June 2019

MISSION, TX- It’s a warm, humid, Summer morning when PSJA Ballew High School Students arrive by school bus at the Mission Center for Education and Economic Development (CEED). Walking into the large, modern building filled with local business offices truly set the tone for the Business and Entrepreneurship STEM CAMP conducted in partnership with the PSJA ISD Texas Title I Priority Schools (TTIPS) Department and the College 1st Program. In this CAMP (Career and Mentorship Program), students will learn how to bring an entrepreneurial idea to life while building the skills that are essential for college and career success.

Marcus Aurelius, a roman emperor and philosopher, once said, “If a person doesn't know to which port they sail, no wind is favorable.” Due to PSJA ISD’s continuous commitment to having their students graduate “College Ready, College Connected and College Complete,” students are guided from an early age toward envisioning a future in a career they are passionate about.

“When I was 13, I always dreamed of being an entrepreneur. I did not give up on it, I wanted to continue with it but I just couldn’t find anyone that knew what I was talking about. No one had the same vision as me,” Justin Gonzalez, senior, said.

It is Justin’s first time participating in a special program arranged by the PSJA ISD TIPPS Department. After completing the CAMP, Justin is now focused on becoming an entrepreneur.

“The College 1st Program mentors are people that help you with the goals you have in life. They guide you in the path to take if you want to become an entrepreneur or just become succeed in life,” Justin said.

Justin, senior, working on his poster for his idea of “Eco Bi”. Inspired by rechargeable scooters he saw in Austin, Justin developed an idea of a solar- and kinetic-powered bicycle that is not only good for the consumer but also the environment. Photo by: Christian Chacon

In this CAMP, students had the opportunity to put their creativity to work and conceptually build their own business from the ground up, starting from an idea, to a business plan, to designing a logo on a graphic designing app. The students even had a chance to grasp an idea of marketing by printing their logo onto their own insulated tumbler.

The CAMP has been described as “A fun, entertaining and inspirational,” by Alondra Elizondo, junior.

Alondra’s idea she further built upon in the CAMP has been in the works for a short while now but it is here in the CAMP that she was given the opportunity to move from an idea to an actual business plan with a marketing tool so she can keep her vision in mind.

“It’s a robot with tacos in it. My business class actually created a robot, we collaborated with the STEM class and Construction class to be able to make that robot. Our robot will be programed to deliver tacos to consumers. It will transport food quicker, faster, and people will not have to worry about the food getting cold or being stuck in traffic,” Alondra said.

Alondra, junior, shares her taco-robot concept with her peers and College 1st mentor, Gaby Diaz de Leon. Photo by: Christian Chacon

After developing their ideas and creating the logos, the students returned to their high school for the final part of their CAMP. They arrived at one of the PSJA Ballew High School Labs to use a laser engraver and cutter to imprint their logo designs onto a matte black tumbler. The PSJA ISD Career and Technical Education (CTE) Department acquired this state-of the-art equipment through their partnership with Texas Workforce Solutions.

Justin Gonzalez, senior, proudly holds his ‘Eco Bi’ tumbler in The Entrepreneurial Center of the PSJA CCTA building. Photo by: Christian Chacon

As evidenced by Justin and Alondra, innovative ideas are present in the minds of our youth. All it takes to bring out these ideas is a culture of encouragement and creative cultivation. A culture such as this is certainly present within PSJA ISD. Not only is this culture beneficial for the students, but for the economic development of the Pharr, San Juan, and Alamo communities as well.

According to the Small Business Association, “Small businesses (firms with 1-499 employees) continue to add more net new jobs than large businesses (500+ employees).” Additionally, according to the Small Business Administration, “The United States’ 2018 Small Business Profile shows that small businesses added 1.9 million net new jobs during the latest year studied. There are 30.2 million small businesses in the United States, which employ 47.5 percent of the state’s private workforce.”

“[The CAMP] pushes students to take risks and follow their dreams. It may be hard, but you still have to try,” Alondra said. “I know my mom did not receive the education I have and I see her struggling sometimes. I want to give her the best. I want to pay her back for everything she has done for me. I want to work hard”

Hosting the CAMP at the Mission Center for Education and Economic Development (CEED) was strategically done in order to motivate the students by showing them it is possible to bring an idea to life. The businesses located within CEED range from a media publishing company to restaurants to even the College 1st office. Mission CEED seeks to promote education, local businesses, and foster open-mindedness through networking on how to make our community a better place.

“When preparation joins opportunity is when you meet success,” Ernesto Villarreal, Executive Director of College 1st, said. “We are grateful for the opportunity PSJA ISD TTIPS Department gives us to work with their students.”

For more information about PSJA ISD, please visit their website at College 1st is a program founded in 2013 in the Rio Grande Valley to empower students for college and career success. For more details about the College 1st Program, please visit our website at

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