EMERGE Students Return from Tour of Top Colleges

Eighty high schools students from six different HISD campuses have just returned from a jam-packed trip that included visits to seven Ivy League and Tier I colleges in only six days. The tour was coordinated through HISD’s EMERGE program, which helps low-income, first-generation minority students get into top-notch colleges.

As part of the trip, students toured the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Brown, Columbia, and Yale. During several of the visits, the high school students were able to take part in panel discussions with first-generation college students, getting insight on what it’s like to leave home and family to pursue a higher education.

“My most memorable experience on this trip was hearing from the first-generation students of Brown,” said Furr High School student Karen Banda.  “Before, I thought that an Ivy League school was either too much for me to handle or could not be an option because of the school I attend. Listening to their stories made me realize that if they could do it, then so can I.”

The college tours made quite an impression on the group, but they weren’t the only ones who were impacted by the trip. “A Yale professor who spoke to our kids told me that he had never interacted with such an engaged group of students,” said Rick Cruz, HISD Assistant Superintendent of College Readiness and founder of the EMERGE program.  “Additionally, the Yale dean who spoke to our students wants to fly down to Houston to help recruit more kids from HISD.”

The six-day trip to the Northeast also included some sightseeing and fun for the students, many of whom had never traveled outside of Houston. The group visited the Liberty Bell and went on a historical scavenger hunt in Philadelphia and Boston. Students also had a chance to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Statue of Liberty, and Ground Zero in New York.

Students involved in the EMERGE program attend Eastwood, Chavez, Furr, Reagan, Sam Houston and Sharpstown High Schools. Read what they wrote about the trip and see pictures below.

(Students at the University of Pennsylvania)

“The feeling that I received once I laid my eyes on the college campuses… I went from believing that these schools were impossible to even apply to, to knowing that colleges are looking and fighting for students like me.” (Jose Guzman, Chavez, 11th grade)

“My most memorable experience from this trip is how I felt and how the campus of each college was. I really didn’t have any clue of where I wanted to attend college, but from the trip I developed many ideas about attending Yale, Harvard, or Columbia).” (Daniela Uribe, Chavez, 10th grade)

“I learned that going out of state can be easier to do with the help of your college. Clubs can make you feel at home and counselors can speak to your parents if they are unwilling to let you go to your college of choice.” (Summer Reichardt, Chavez, 11th grade)

“The most important lesson that I learned was that any person can go to college. It does not matter if a student comes from a low-income family, or does not have the money to pay for college. I was able to motivate myself since I come from a low-income family.” (Pedro Portillo, Sharpstown, 11th grade)

(Students at Harvard University)

“I’m a senior, so first, I plan to not get senioritis or fall back on my grades. Instead, I still strive to be more dedicated to not only my clubs, but also my grades. I plan to organize ahead so I do not put anything to last minute.” (Stephanie Flores, Chavez, 12th grade)

“One important lesson that I learned from this trip was not to judge anything based on their prestige. I thought that I wasn’t going to like Harvard and that the people there were snobby, but turns out I was wrong. I absolutely loved Harvard! The people, the environment, the academics, everything about it was great!” (Janet Nieto, Chavez, 12th grade)

“I have lots of new plans this summer. I’m going to get AP books and maybe an SAT book and study over the topics. I’m also going to start walking to the park and reading/studying. This decision was made because the colleges put an emphasis on preparation, so I feel that I should prepare myself.” (Tiara Lowery, Chavez, 12th grade)

“I would definitely recommend this trip to future EMERGE students so that they can see if they are able to adapt to being far away from home, and so that they can learn more about these prestigious universities that may affect their decision in choosing which to attend.” (Jeniffer Ramirez, Sam Houston, 11th grade)

(Students outside the Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

“The whole experience was amazing. I don’t think I would ever forget coming to New England. EMERGE has opened so many doors for me, some that I thought would never open. It has inspired me to give so much more in school, in my community, in my house, to my parents, to my family, and to my heart. It has made me realize that I can do this, it won’t be easy, but I will get there.” (Bessy Huezo, Sharpstown, 10th grade)

“An important lesson that I have learned from this trip is that I shouldn’t just set my limits to the “average.” This trip has taught me that I need to expand my horizons to get to the finest things possible. Going to an Ivy League college was something I had always strongly doubted before this trip, but now I see it as something that I must do in order to show myself that I strived for the best.” (Helaine Espinoza, Furr, 12th grade)

“My most memorable experience would have to be staying in the dorms, because it was actually the first time I stayed in a dorm, and having to share it with a roommate.” (Brittney Lozano, Sharpstown, 10th grade)

(Students outside Columbia University)

“It was interesting to see the large amount of students roaming the campus (Brown) although summer had already begun. Even with the complicated weather, student life still existed. Not only was I captivated by the beauty, but by the willingness for the students to be there. In addition to Brown’s experience, New York’s activities left me in complete awe. Not once did I dream of ever seeing Times Square in action or live Broadway. It definitely opened my eyes to a new way of living.” (Selena Martinez, Chavez, 12th grade)

“EMERGE has really opened my eyes to doors I would’ve never seen, and the trip itself has changed me.” (Stephanie Flores, Chavez, 12th grade)

“The trip helped me in my search for the appropriate university. It helped me to decide which one was the best for me and it gave us an inside look into college-life. I think that I was totally not prepared for college but now, I feel like I know what I am doing and what I am fighting for.” (Ana Morales Benitez, Sharpstown, 11th grade) 

(Students outside Yale University)

“My most memorable experience from this trip was when I was talking to a Yale student, and what was really interesting was that I was learning about the college as well as the way they treated their undergraduates. Yale really opens the doors to my success, and now I’m ready to take that opportunity.” (Daniel Alvarez, Sharpstown, 11th grade)

“I would recommend this trip because this trip gave me hope. I kind of knew I could be able to go to a good school, but I was hesitant and I want all kids to know that even though your home life doesn’t set you up for a good school you still can.” (Alexus Montgomery, Sharpstown, 11th grade)

“I would recommend that students attend this trip because I know personally, I cannot attend tours or gain a residential experience at schools with this level of prestige on my own; I simply do not have the funding nor the network.”  (Natalie Sanchez, Chavez, 10th grade)