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During their stint as Teach For America corps members, Tom Torkelson and JoAnn Gama founded the IDEA Academy as an after school program in Donna, TX in 1998.  It was created as a way to help combat some of the major educational deficiencies they saw in their students, focusing the program on student achievement and college readiness.

Named IDEA as an acronym for "Individuals Dedicated to Excellence and Achievement", and using as a motto “No Excuses!”, the program saw quick success and the state granted a charter to IDEA in 2000. Beginning with only grades 4-8, the original flagship campus in Donna has expanded to become a K-12 campus.

IDEA Public Schools launched an ambitious expansion plan in 2005, titled "The 2012 Plan," after its goal of launching 22 IDEA schools across the Rio Grande Valley by the year 2012. Click here to learn more about IDEA's expansion.  In line with this plan, IDEA added several schools over the past five years, including new schools in the cities of Brownsville, McAllen and San Antonio since the last academic year. IDEA now has 30 schools in three regions (Austin, San Antonio, and the Rio Grande Valley) and is working toward its 2017 expansion plan that will see IDEA grow to a network of 60 schools across the state of Texas.
The flagship campus in Donna graduated its first class of seniors in 2007 sending 100% to college. To date, IDEA has kept its promise of sending all students to college. This year, IDEA will graduate its largest senior class from six campuses. Read more about our alumni here.