Superintendent Dr. Jose Parra spoke to some of Irving’s future leaders during the 2017 La Buena Vida Leadership Summit presented Monday, Oct. 16 and Tuesday, Oct. 17 at The Study in Irving.
Designed for freshman and sophomore students in Irving ISD, the summit invited students to learn about a variety of topics such as leadership, financial literacy and conflict resolution, and through a series of lectures given by local experts. This is the third year La Buena Vida offered the Leadership Summit and the first time they expanded not only the length of the summit, going from one to two days, but also doubling the number of students attending, from 150 to 300.
Joy Goodrum is the executive director of La Buena Vida, a non-profit designed to help disadvantaged students across North Texas. She explained the summit is geared toward students who have already demonstrated signs of leadership at their schools.
“The counselors determine who’s going to be the attendees,” Goodrum said. “They will look at the kids who are on student council, the kids who are in the AVID program, the Early College Start program, and other areas in the school where they feel like these kids already have the initiative to be leaders.”
Goodrum added that the goal of this summit is to help give kids the information they need to truly become successful upon leaving high school.
“I went to these schools myself, and I still live here in Irving,” Goodrum said. “I want the best for these kids. I want these kids, as they grow, to become successful adults. If I can have La Buena Vida be a part of making that happen, it’s worth it. These leadership skills and financial education are some things these kids might have never heard at home. We want to make sure, as they grow up and are contributing members of our city, that they’re successful.”
Among this year’s guests was Irving ISD Superintendent Dr. Jose Parra. Dr. Parra spoke to the students about how the district wants to help them prepare for their lives and careers after high school. He stressed that, although graduation is still a few years away for these students, high school graduation should not be the end goal of their education, but the beginning.
“High school graduation is the first step, not the last step,” Dr. Parra said. “When I shake hands with students who graduate I tell them, ‘Congratulations. This is the first step.’ It’s your first step toward what you are really capable of doing. What you do in high school may demonstrate flashes of it, and some of you may have very remarkable careers in high school, but it’s the still just the first step toward what you really want.”
Dr. Parra shared with the students a number of ways they can prepare for college right now, including enrolling in Advance Placement courses, Dual Credit courses, and Career Technical Education (CTE) courses offered across all Irving ISD high schools. He also spoke about the district’s new Early College Start program, which was first introduced last year.
“Students in our Early College Start program can structure their coursework so they can earn anywhere from 24 to 60 college credits and earn a high school diploma,” Dr. Parra said. “It’s possible if you structure properly, you can walk across the stage at graduation already having an Associate’s Degree in college. That means you would enter [college] as a junior, while everyone else around you is entering their freshman year in college.”
Dr. Parra said with all the programs Irving ISD offers to help high school students be prepared for college, he hopes to see all of his students become “competition-ready,” both in college and in the workforce.
“I want to help you maximize your potential as well, but I also want you to be competition-ready,” Dr. Parra said. “By that, I mean I want you able, because of the coursework you’ve taken, because of the challenges you’ve seen the classrooms, because of the success you have, to be able to compete for a slot in any university that you want to go to. When you’ve completed the coursework in our district to be college-ready as far as your academic preparation, and competition-ready in terms of careers, so that you can compete for any job that you want, and not be limited by what you haven’t done in school.”