Spring ISD EMERGE Fellow and Spring High School Valedictorian Nathaniel Tutop is recognized during his school’s graduation ceremony.
HOUSTON – July 7, 2020 – With its 2020 graduating class, Spring ISD celebrated an additional milestone, as the first full cohort of Spring ISD EMERGE Fellows received their diplomas and embarked on the next stage of their education. The 23 members of the Class of 2020, representing all five of the district’s high schools, were inducted into EMERGE at the end of their sophomore year. For the past two years, the program has helped them navigate the college search process and provided support along the way.
“EMERGE has drastically changed my life, more than I could have ever imagined,” said Westfield High School graduate Alejandra Yepiz, who is headed to Middlebury College in Vermont this fall. “EMERGE does an amazing job at providing us students seemingly unattainable opportunities right at our fingertips.”
Since its founding in 2010, the EMERGE Fellowship has focused on connecting high-potential students from underserved Houston-area communities with opportunities at selective colleges and universities, which tend to have higher graduation rates, better financial aid resources, and a broader set of programs in place on campus to support student success. By doing so, EMERGE works to promote greater equity, both in higher education and society.
“The EMERGE staff pushes us to step out of our comfort zone, and it has, in my experience, allowed for noticeable positive growth as a person, which has then helped me in my high school career,” Yepiz said.
Each member of the group received an acceptance to at least one selective college or university, and 87 percent of the cohort plans to attend one of those top schools. More than half of the EMERGE graduates were accepted to their school of choice through an early decision application.
Dekaney High School graduate Michelle Romero found her match farther from home than she ever imagined, during an EMERGE-sponsored summer college tour to New England. Romero, a native Texan with no plans to leave the state, fell in love with Trinity College, a small liberal arts school in Hartford, Connecticut. Romero, who plans to become a social worker, was impressed with the school and the way faculty and students there are living out a commitment to serve the wider community.
It was a quality that mirrored her experience in EMERGE.
“They’ve always made sure that I was okay, whether it was academically or whether it was things at home,” said Romero, the oldest of six children. She credited her EMERGE program managers with helping her see that what was best for her education was also what was best for her family in the long run. “It hasn’t been an easy journey, I will say that, but the journey that I’ve been on has definitely been beneficial to me and is definitely going to be beneficial to my future.”
Members of this year’s EMERGE cohort are diverse in their goals and interests, and will be studying this fall at a wide range of schools, small and large, both close to home and far away.
Some found their best match at nearby schools like the University of Houston, Texas A&M in College Station and the University of Texas at Austin. Others will travel farther from home to attend schools, such as the University of Chicago, Northeastern University in Boston, Boston College, Trinity College, Middlebury College, and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
“Make no mistake, these young people are going to change the world,” said Spring ISD Chief of Innovation and Equity Dr. Lupita Hinojosa. “There’s so much potential in our students, and we’re very proud as a district to partner with EMERGE and offer them an added boost to help them reach their goals.”
In addition to comprehensive financial aid offerings – such as Trinity College’s commitment to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need – several of the students also received prestigious scholarships to help them and their families pay for college without incurring debt.
The group boasts two Posse Scholars – Carl Wunsche Sr. High School graduate Taysia Battee, who will attend Texas A&M, and Spring High School graduate Diana Salmeron, who received early acceptance to Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Others received scholarships directly from their chosen schools, like Spring High School graduate Olger Carcache, who was awarded the University of Chicago’s Odyssey Scholarship, designed to provide a loan-free education to talented first-generation college students and others who might not otherwise be able to afford to attend.
Although most cohort members are going separate ways this fall, they said their EMERGE connections will continue to support them through college and beyond.
“The relationships and opportunities I’ve formed and been a part of because of EMERGE are one of the main reasons I will be attending Middlebury College this upcoming fall,” Yepiz said. “I am beyond grateful to have been a part of the first EMERGE Spring ISD cohort, and I know it will only continue to improve and grow.”