Nearly three years ago, a group of local leaders met with U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa and discussed manners in which to diversify our economy to ensure a strong financial future for our community. During that meeting the need for health care professionals, specifically Registered Nurses, was highlighted. From that initial concept grew a vision of training a workforce from the Coastal Bend, to serve the Coastal Bend, in one of the fastest growing industries, in the Coastal Bend. As a first goal, a group of local business persons, educators and elected officials formed an organization which would eventually formalize as the Tri-County Consortium to Advance Education (TCCAE), and began working toward bringing registered nursing classes to serve Jim Wells, Brooks and Duval counties.

As a group, we commissioned a feasibility study that told us some important things: 1) we currently have an acute shortage of nursing that will only grow exponentially, 2) that our tri-county area and student population can sustain a registered nurse and allied health school, 3) that a partnership with Coastal Bend College and the support of state legislators, state regulatory agencies and our Congressman would be vital to making the project a reality.

So we went to work and had meetings with Coastal Bend College, State Rep. Toureilles (represents Jim Wells), State Rep Guillen’s office (representing Duval), State Rep Escobar’s office (representing Brooks), State Senator Hinojosa’s office (representing Jim wells and Brooks), State Senator Zaffirini’s office (representing Duval), the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (representing Jim Wells, Brooks and Duval). We explained our need, conveyed our community support, gave them a copy of our plan and asked for their help.

Last fall, in a meeting with Coastal Bend College President Dr. Thomas Baynum and Alice Campus Director Dr. Rito Silva, we were delighted to receive a response from Coastal Bend College indicating they would be applying for approval to begin offering Registered Nurse courses in Beeville and Alice in August 2008. During the meeting we expressed our support of their decision and pledged to work with them to make the RN program in Alice a success.

As we celebrate the approval of the two-year RN program, I hope our community is encouraged to continue looking to the future with a sense of vision and hope. Obtaining this program should be a first step of an organized effort to advance education in an effort to raise the quality of life for the citizens of our region.

Many thanks for the hard work of Coastal Bend College President Dr. Thomas Baynum and his staff and dedicated efforts of U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa and his staff Judy McAda, Ray De Los Santos Jr. and Chris Garcia.

James Bradford,