New Texas Tech/Silva Partnership gives students early access to nursing degree

Starting next school year, a new partnership with the Texas Tech University Health Science Center El Paso will pave the way for EPISD students to earn a registered-nurse degree by the time they are 20 years old.

A new agreement with Texas Tech University Health Science Center gives incoming Silva Health Magnet students an opportunity to earn the pre-requisites necessary to enter the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing upon graduating.

Incoming Silva students enrolled in the program can take up to 60 college credit hours to earn an associate’s degree through El Paso Community College. Upon successful completion, they can receive admission into the accelerated nursing program and earn their RN in 16 months.

“The beauty of this program is that Texas Tech has agreed to extend all of those credits and allow them to enter the bachelor’s of science in nursing program right after high school,” said Patty Benitez, a facilitator in the EPISD Office of Transformation. “It’s a great opportunity for our students. We foresee a high interest.”

Benitez worked closely with Texas Tech while serving as an assistant principal at the campus.

Beyond the educational opportunities, she touts the financial savings for students.

“It’s free of charge for students,” she said. “Silva will offer the whole 60 hours which includes tuition and books. EPCC also offers tutoring resources for our students.”

Dr. Manuel Santa Cruz, Texas Tech assistant dean and chair of the undergraduate program, joined with Benitez and Silva to announce the new partnership and explained the program’s widespread impact for the community.

“We are contributing to the need for nurses in the workforce,” he said. “There’s a huge nursing shortage right now in the community. If we look at the state of Texas, in the year 2022, we will be needing 20,000 nurses needed in state and in West Texas 3,000 to 4,000 nurses and that number continues to grow.”

The program begins in the fall with the incoming class of 2023. Texas Tech has agreed to reserve 10 percent of the admission class each year to students meeting all of the requirements.

Senior Disha Ganjegunte, a student leader involved with the development of the program, looks forward to the opportunities it brings to future Silva students.

“Texas Tech is just a huge part of us coming to Silva Health Magnet,” Ganjegunte said. “This is setting the foundation of not only excelling in academics but also getting that exposure to the medical fields with Texas Tech mentors. It’s a great opportunity that you now have a pathway to get to Texas Tech and actually graduate as a nurse.”

The future neonatologist sees the program as a solid pathway to many healthcare careers.

“Even if our students don’t want to be a nurse, just having that exposure and building up all those prereqs and going through the program, graduating as an RN, is a great resume builder,” she said. “It’s great for just building up all those skills you actually need to be a physician.”

Sophomore Emmanuel Ortega is considering pursuing a nursing degree at Texas Tech after he graduates. He sees the edge this new program gives students interested in a healthcare career.

“This is a huge opportunity and will open lots of doors,” he said. “A lot of students want to be doctors or nurses but they don’t know what it looks like. This is going to be hands-on, which is what you need to get into a medical field. And Silva, just its name, opens doors and I think this is going to so beneficial for the future.”

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photo by Erika Reyes – EPISD