EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – 50 years ago, El Paso voters decided to approve a new community-junior college to allow local students to have increased access to academic opportunities.
It all started with Former Texas State Senator Joe Christie, who had the idea to try and bring something new to the table.
“I had no idea that it would be such a success,” Christie said. “I knew it was needed.”
After serving six years in the Texas Senate starting in 1967, creating EPCC was one of many accomplishments under Christie’s belt.
“We don’t have natural resources here in El Paso like other parts of the state…our resources here are our people, and the way we develop those resources is through an education,” Christie told KTSM. “It was an idea that took 50 years to get us here, and I think it was a pretty good idea.”
Although the vote to create a community-junior college was approved by voters on June 28th, 1967, it was still no easy task to secure funding.
That’s why Christie took matters into his own hands and later secured start-up funding.
“Basically we were asking people to tax themselves, and that’s a hard sell. That’s where we spent most time convincing the business community it was a good investment. It wasn’t just a feel good thing it would be good for them because they’d be getting trained employees and a good work force to draw from,” Christie explained.
EPCC’s president says all the hard work in years past has paved the way for a bright future.
“As we celebrate and look back 50 years, we’re actually truly building for the future,” William Serrata said. “We’re adding about 400,000 square feet of new facilities, six projects on the five campuses that are really looking at providing state-of-the-art technology to the students that are coming. 74 percent of that square footage will be either STEM related or career and technology education… high skilled, high wage jobs.”
Looking back, Christie said that despite any challenges, his goals were achieved.
“I can’t think of anything that I really wanted to do, that I didn’t do. And I’ve done a lot of dumb things,” he said with a laugh.
EPCC currently serves more than 28,500 students and offers 145 degree and certificate programs.