When I graduated from Chávez High School two years ago, I was the “first” in many ways—the first one in my immediate family to go to a four-year college (as my family had only moved to the United States two years before that), one of the first students from Chávez to attend a private institution outside of Texas, and one of the first students to graduate from the pilot cohort of the EMERGE program. Along with the immense sense of pride and joy I felt upon my acceptance to Tufts University, I was also under the stressful realization that it was my responsibility to be successful, not just for my family and myself, but also for my community.
Being a first-generation college student was far more challenging than I prepared myself for. From experiencing culture shock to having trouble balancing my academic and social lives, I wasn’t completely satisfied with my performance during my first semester at Tufts. When I went back to Houston for winter break and was invited to attend a social gathering of EMERGE, I was nervous about sharing my college experience, thinking that I was a failure. Talking to the EMERGE mentors and my peers about their college experiences, however, reminded and reassured me that I wasn’t the only first-gen student going through this. I wasn’t alone. Others truly believed in me and were there to support me. I went back to Tufts my sophomore year with a renewed sense of possibility and a more grounded perspective.
This summer, I have come back to intern with EMERGE and was tasked with helping to organize the recent EMERGE Summer College Tour, which took 94 rising juniors to visit nine top-tier colleges in the Northeast. Back in 2010, when the EMERGE Fellowship was founded, having a tour to visit top-tier colleges was only a dream shared amongst myself, the other 11 students in the first cohort, and our volunteer mentors.
Working alongside the EMERGE team and my former mentor to plan and coordinate the tour truly fulfilled a personal dream of mine. As an EMERGE alum, I am also extremely proud and honored to have shared and passed on this dream to current HISD students. To watch them experience such a life-changing event was truly more than I could have ever imagined. Plus, much to my surprise, I learned a lot about myself. If I had to use one adjective to describe my experience with EMERGE thus far, it would be “phenomenal.” I can’t wait to see what happens next!