30 Students Set Sights On Selective Colleges and Universities
Spring Early College students Kevin Bonilla, from left, and Roberto Sauceda discuss their college goals and aspirations during the EMERGE Spring ISD New Student Orientation.
HOUSTON – May 17, 2018 – As students across the district anticipate the coming freedom of summer, there’s one group of Spring ISD high school students gearing up for a season of hard work.
They are the 30 newly inducted Spring ISD EMERGE Fellows who have signed on to participate in summer test prep and college tours; workshops on essay writing, college admissions interviews and financial aid; and ongoing one-on-one mentoring. The goal is to gain acceptance into some of the most competitive U.S. colleges and universities.
“It seems like a lot of work, but I’m committed,” said Leonard Diaz, a rising senior at Dekaney High School selected for the program. On a recent Saturday, he attended an orientation program, where he and other selected participants got a detailed overview of EMERGE and its expectations.
“When they talked about how they help minorities like us get into college, how they help us every step of the way, I was like, ‘I’ve never tried something like this, but let me give it a try,’” Diaz said. “And right now, I’m thinking it was worth it. I think they really care about us.”
All that hard work and support can pay off, according to EMERGE Academic Program Manager Sherese Woolard, with acceptances into selective colleges and universities, as well as in generous financial aid packages for high-need students.
“The talent is palpable in Spring,” Woolard said. “Just from the opportunity we’ve had so far to get to know the kids through the application process, it is so clear that we have a large talent base here, and they’re excited to get this information and these resources.”
Spring ISD’s first EMERGE cohort includes 25 rising juniors – five each from Dekaney High School, Spring Early College Academy, Spring High School, Westfield High School and Carl Wunsche Sr. High School – as well as five rising seniors from Dekaney.
Each student was selected through an application and interview process specifically designed to mirror those conducted by the country’s top colleges and universities – schools like Yale, Harvard, MIT and Rice, just a few of the many campuses where EMERGE graduates are now studying.
Originally launched in 2013, EMERGE has since grown to serve hundreds of Houston ISD and Spring Branch ISD students. Felicia Martin, EMERGE’s managing director of program strategy, said the addition of Spring ISD makes sense, considering the core mission of the EMERGE organization is to empower and prepare high-performing students from underserved communities to get into – and graduate from – college.
“At the end of the day,” Martin said, “it’s about equity and social justice, making sure they have access to opportunity and choice.”
Many of the parents attending the recent orientation expressed gratitude after hearing about the options that could be available for their students. Some were surprised to learn that, due to the grant and scholarship funds available, selective colleges and universities can end up costing families less out-of-pocket than a state school. And some had a hard time believing, at first, that almost all of the EMERGE programs and benefits were being offered to their children at no cost to them.
“I wish I would have known about all this when my oldest daughter was in high school,” said Henry Boone, whose son Kameron – a rising junior at Dekaney – is joining EMERGE. “This program is going to help my son. When he gets ready to go to college, he’ll know all the paperwork; he’ll know the steps; he’ll know the ins and outs.”
For the district students newly joining EMERGE, it was a lot of information to take in, but many also said they felt encouraged and hopeful about where it could lead them.
“Going to college is definitely a priority for me,” said Eric Garcia, one of the new EMERGE Fellows and a rising senior at Dekaney.
Asked what convinced him to participate in the program, Garcia said, “Basically, the opportunity that they said that we have, to make our future, to prosper in life beyond high school.”
Among those on hand to congratulate the new EMERGE Fellows and celebrate with them and their families was Spring ISD Chief of School Leadership and Student Support Services Dr. Lupita Hinojosa, who noted that the partnership would strengthen the college-bound culture at all Spring ISD campuses.
“I am so proud of our district to have been able to bring EMERGE here,” Hinojosa said, “because of the great opportunities it means we’re going to be able to provide our students and their families. The impact that this will have on these children and these families will be felt throughout the district.”
Carlos Gonzalez, Spring ISD’s coordinator of college readiness, agreed, saying that the new EMERGE students themselves still had a lot to learn about the program and all it would entail for them.
“They don’t know yet how much this will propel them,” he said. “This is going to change their lives.”