Spring High School junior Diana Salmeron, from left, together with Spring Early College Academy juniors Kevin Bonilla, back row, and Roberto Sauceda, in a group discussion during a recent meeting of the Spring ISD EMERGE Fellows.
HOUSTON – Oct. 29, 2018 – Spring High School junior Diana Salmeron has some big plans – graduate high school, get into Harvard University, and transform contemporary society by inspiring young Hispanic women in the U.S. and elsewhere to believe in themselves and their dreams. It’s a big to-do list, but first she’s got to survive her junior year, keep her grades up, and continue to make the most of every opportunity – academic and otherwise – that comes her way.
Happily, for Salmeron, she’s getting some help – and some inspiration of her own – from new friends made through the Spring ISD EMERGE Fellowship. Launched earlier this year in Spring ISD, EMERGE helps prepare high-potential students from underserved communities to attend – and graduate from – selective colleges and universities. Salmeron is part of the first cohort of 25 Spring ISD juniors selected to be part of the program.
“Sophomore year I was always on top of it, but junior year was something new to me,” Salmeron said after a recent EMERGE meeting. She found the challenges of the new academic year were making it difficult to live up to her own high standards, but coming together again with other EMERGE students – and seeing them tackling the same challenges – reminded her why she was working so hard.
That sense of solidarity, Salmeron said, gave her the strength to pick herself back up and start again.
“They’re in the same boat as I am,” she said of the other EMERGE Fellows. “They’re struggling, too, they’re staying up till one in the morning as well doing homework. I needed to get back on my grind. I needed to get back to that vision that I had, and EMERGE helped me do that.”
While many students struggle with the demands of junior year, according to Spring ISD EMERGE Program Coordinator Sherese Woolard it’s a critical time when students need to lean in and challenge themselves to excel.
“The junior year is the year that colleges really look at to decide whether students are a good fit,” said Woolard. “That’s why we encourage students to focus on rigor and building an upward trajectory during this time. For example, colleges will want to see an increasing number of AP or dual-credit courses, not a decrease.”
EMERGE provides students with a support system of like-minded fellow students – to push and encourage each other to stay focused on what’s important to them. For Salmeron, that support system is helping breathe new life into one of her own longtime college dreams.
“All throughout middle school,” Salmeron said, “I was like, ‘I’m going to go to Harvard.’ And then freshman year, I told one of my friends, and he was like, ‘That’s an Ivy League school; it’s expensive. Think of something more logical.’ That really hurt, but then I was like, ‘That’s right, I’m never going to get to Harvard. I don’t have the money for that. I don’t have the mediators. And how am I going to get all these scholarships? How am I going to do this if it’s just one girl in Spring ISD, you know?’”
When Salmeron learned that she had been identified as a potential candidate for EMERGE, she realized the program could give her exactly the kind of boost she needed. Together with her fellow cohort members, Salmeron will participate in EMERGE throughout her junior and senior years, attending college admissions workshops, getting personalized assistance with applications, receiving SAT/ACT preparation, and visiting schools during a summer college tour between her junior and senior years.
For Salmeron, it was an opportunity too good to pass up, and one she hopes will enable her not only to achieve her own dreams, but to inspire others as well.
“In my family, I’d be the first woman, on both sides, to go to college,” Salmeron said. “I would be the first one. I’m Hispanic, and I know some of my family still think of that patriarchal society – the woman has to stay in the house, the woman can’t go further in her education. I want to change that. And not just for my family, but for other women as well. I want to change that patriarchal society to one where everyone has the same opportunity.”