By Chip Chandler

Twenty Canyon Independent School District students were surprised with substantial scholarships from West Texas A&M University during a Feb. 21 banquet.

The students are part of the inaugural CISD / WT pre-engineering program, in which students are offered four courses that give qualified students early access to the field of engineering.

In total, the students were offered $550,000 in scholarships to WT. Each student received two offers — one from the College of Engineering and one from the University in case the student wishes to pursue a different major.

CISD students take courses on the WT campus, alongside University students, that gives them hands-on experience in campus labs and instruction by University engineering professors. Juniors and seniors at both Canyon and Randall high schools began taking the courses in fall 2021.

“This collaborative pre-engineering program between WT and CISD is the fruit of our commitment to being responsive to the needs of our region,” said Dr. Emily Hunt, dean of the College of Engineering. “With these scholarships, we are showing our commitment to pursuing top students into our engineering. These students are the best of the Panhandle and we want them at WT.”

By the end of the program, the students have 12 hours of transferable college credit.

“We are thrilled with this partnership and know that our students are extremely grateful for these generous scholarship offers and for the opportunity to take university-level courses to set themselves on a path to their future,” said Marc Hamil, CISD director of secondary educations.

The pre-engineering program is one of five pre-university programs offered by WT, including those offered to students in Texas public or private school, homeschool students and select out-of-state students.

Dr. Brad Johnson, WT vice president for community college relations, stressed the importance to the regional economy.

“Our region needs engineers who intend to build a life in the Panhandle,” Johnson said. “Students who earn their degrees at WT are far more likely to stay in the region and provide the quality workforce needed for future prosperity — not just for themselves, but also for the rest of us.”

To be part of the pre-engineering program, students must be approved by CISD, meet math prerequisites, and participate in dual-credit course sequencing with Amarillo College.

Since 2005, WT’s engineering program has grown from 20 undergraduate students to more than 750 in fall 2021, in addition to more than 100 graduate students in engineering and mathematics. The College of Engineering, the sixth college on WT’s campus, was formally established in January 2020.