iluna@valleytowncrier.com

EDINBURG - Three years later, the developmental academy that instills self-directive learning into its students now has its campus in Edinburg as the new Toros College Prep campus.

A historical year for the schools’ students, family and community was made Thursday, Feb. 6, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony after having to share Pharr’s IDEA campus for nearly a year.

“The impact to seeing our name on the building, our mascot on the field - we are home,” said Viviane Castillo-Manzano, principal of IDEA Toros College Prep.

Hidalgo County Commissioner, Ellie Torres and others who partnered with IDEA Toros were also present at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting.

“You are helping mold the school for future generations to come,” said commissioner Torres. “You’re amazing students and you embrace learning. You are making history, you are the first class and you will leave your legacy here at IDEA college.”

Not only is the 6th -12th-grade campus known for its self-directive learning environment, but the athletic talent that students bring. IDEA’s Toros College Prep campus partnered with the RGVFC Toros, an Edinburg-based professional soccer team and built three competitive soccer fields and a practice field in the schools’ backyard.

“Today’s ribbon-cutting symbolizes our commitment to partnering with our student-athletes,” said Castillo-Manzano. “We’ve done the work and fulfilled promises as sending one hundred percent of our students with our first three graduating classes; we got creative and built opportunities developing our students as athletes in those first three years but this space is intentionality around how students learn.”

As principal of the school, Castillo-Manzano shared that while she was unsure of what she would pursue in college; many of how which her upperclassmen feel - her father worked as a bus driver for IDEA’s Donna campus who recruited her to work with the charter school.

“He insisted for over a year until I joined IDEA and applied fourteen years ago, she said. “While at IDEA I had the opportunity to work in many different capacities but all of them had lead toward the same goal - that all children deserve an opportunity to get a college degree.”

For student José Ángel Ravelo, IDEA helped make graduation possible for him.

“I remember my first year at IDEA Toros when I had the habit of messing around and showing little to no effort,” Ravelo said. “When my first report card came in, however, it was like I had a euphony. I had been an A+ student before coming here and I realized that at Toros if I didn’t take responsibility for my own learning - I wasn’t going to make it.”

Independence and self-direction is what Ravelo wanted current students to take away while attending IDEA.

“It took a lot of people to make this journey happened and I wanted to recognize them,” said Tom Torkelson, CEO and founder of IDEA public schools.

The “genesis” of the schools’ development began four years ago with a phone call to Torkelson from former president of the RGV Vipers and RGVFC Toros, Bert Garcia on advice on how to get the district to build up the soccer academy (RGVFC Toros) Torkelson, shared.

Torkelson and Joann Gama founded IDEA in 2000 using the acronym “Individuals Dedicated to Excellence and Achievement” to define the charter schools’ motto.

IDEA Toros College Prep was founded in 2016.