PSJA ISD Goes Beyond Academics, Prioritizing Students' Holistic Well-being
Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) is committed to supporting students not only academically but also in their overall well-being. District-wide initiatives focus on promoting, protecting, and enhancing students' health through physical and social-emotional support, ensuring their academic, emotional, and physical needs are met. Key departments, including Health, Child Nutrition, and Counseling, collaborate to implement these initiatives.
At every PSJA campus, a registered nurse is available to address students' healthcare needs, providing interventions and strategies. Although not a state requirement, PSJA ISD is dedicated to ensuring the overall health of every student.
Health Services initiatives extend beyond basic nursing care they also offer parents health literacy. They provide parents with guidance and clarification regarding diagnoses and treatments. The department also facilitates communication with healthcare providers, providing detailed explanations of physicians' recommendations upon parent request.
PSJA students receive required dental, vision, and hearing screenings, with the Health Services Department going beyond state mandates. The monitoring of Body Mass Index (BMI) is a district initiative implemented by the department. PSJA nurses send referrals and offer parents support, including consultations with dietitians to establish healthy habits and nutritious meals.
Collaboration between the Health Services department, Athletics, Child Nutrition, and Counseling ensures a holistic approach. The district organizes mass sports physical clinics, allowing athletes to participate in sports by providing low-cost or free physicals.
Director of Health Services, Sulema Solis, emphasizes the importance of health, “One of the priorities that we emphasize in the Health Services department is prevention. If we can prevent illnesses and conditions before they occur, we are setting up our students for success. A healthy child is a child that is ready to learn.”
PSJA ISD also hosts Operation Border Health Preparedness annually, offering disaster preparedness exercises and free medical, dental, and vision care to the community.
The Child Nutrition Department plays a pivotal role in students' overall health, introducing new menu items that meet nutritional standards and appeal to student preferences. Initiatives include strategically increasing breakfast options and locations, and ensuring students involved in extracurricular activities receive a healthy breakfast.
Child Nutrition Administrator Juan Contreras states, "We want to change the school cafeteria perception... If it looks good, smells good, that is when one decides to try something."
In partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture, PSJA ISD also brings the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to elementary schools, introducing students to diverse fruits and vegetables.
Beyond physical health, the district addresses mental health struggles exacerbated by the pandemic. The Counseling team focuses on social and emotional learning (SEL), establishing calming rooms at schools for students to distress through activities like creating vision boards and yoga.
Director of Counseling Virginia Saenz emphasizes the importance of SEL, "We are dedicated to assuring that students come first and that they are getting their socio-emotional skills, so they become resilient and are prepared for lifelong success."
According to Saenz, the PSJA SEL team consists of a Licensed Specialist in School Psychologist, Licensed Professional Counselors and Wraparound Resource Specialists who provide services in mental health, community & social services, legal and safety, cultural and spiritual and crisis support.
Going a step further, they also provide professional development to staff and parents in the areas of mental health, trauma-informed practices, and behavioral supports. The team partners with families, teachers, and administrators to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments that strengthen connections between home, school and the community.
Superintendent Dr. Alejandro Elias affirms the district's commitment to providing students with tools for academic success while prioritizing their health and well-being.
"We believe in serving every student, parent, and member of our community in any time of crisis by staying committed to providing them systems of support,” said Dr. Alejandro Elias. "At PSJA ISD, prioritizing health and safety remains at the forefront, we thank our incredible team for helping us go above and beyond in supporting our PSJA Family.”
PSJA ISD, an open-enrollment school district serving over 30,000 students, welcomes students from anywhere in the Rio Grande Valley. Parents interested in enrolling their child can find more information at www.psjaisd.us.