The cadets in uniform, the large buildings, the football stadium, and students skateboarding and riding bicycles to class were some of the first things Yates High School senior Jason Covarrubias noticed upon arriving on the campus of Texas A&M University.
Until last week, he had never visited a college outside of Houston.
“I could go by myself on a college visit, but I’d be lost in the process,” he said. “My parents probably couldn’t go with me because they have to work, and I work on the weekends. So for HISD to do this, I really appreciate it.”
HISD took about 120 12th graders to College Station last week to visit Texas A&M. Students from Davis, Furr, Kashmere, North Forest, Worthing, and Yates high schools and Young Men’s College Preparatory Academy boarded charter buses as early as 6:30 a.m. to participate in the day-long trip.
The trip was part of a new HISD College Readiness initiative known as Mission One-5 to encourage seniors in the top 15 percent of their high school class to consider enrolling in a top Texas public college such as Texas A&M, the largest university in the state. The College Readiness Department plans to organize similar trips to other Texas universities.
“College is a completely different universe compared to high school,” said Davis High School College Access Coordinator Alpa Sridharan. “When students come to the campus themselves, they can see the depth and richness of the resources that are available to them. You can read about a college all day online, but when you actually come to the campus, you get a chance to see if it’s the right fit for you.”
When students arrived at the university, they were greeted by Texas A&M student ambassadors and cadets in the university’s Corps of Cadets program who yelled “Howdy,” the college’s official greeting.
Students took a walking tour of the campus, visiting the Rudder/Memorial Student Center complex in the heart of the campus with a café bookstore, student lounges and study areas. They also visited residential halls and walked along the campus’ military walk that features bricks and limestone pavers with historic markers. They saw the Twelfth Man sculpture that portrays E. King Gill, an A&M student and football player from the 1920s, and the Lawrence Sullivan Ross statue, where students leave pennies for good luck on exams.
“I really like the traditions of this school,” said Davis High School senior Ignasio Hernandez, while snapping photos along the tour. Texas A&M is No. 1 on his college list. “The school has a great academic program in engineering, and everybody here is so friendly and welcoming. I’ve just always wanted to go to school here.”
After the tour, students listened to Texas A&M students who graduated from HISD high schools talk about their college experience at the university. The undergraduates offered advice on studying for college classes, managing your time wisely, joining student organizations, and living on or off campus.
“I learned from the panel that it’s important to stay on campus, so you can meet more people and get more involved,” said Kashmere High School senior Giovanni Johnson. “I like the tips they gave us on how to become familiar with a campus when you’re a freshman, so you won’t look so lost.”
Covarrubias said it was inspiring to see how focused the Texas A&M students looked on campus. He says going to college is important to him because his parents sacrificed a lot for him and his siblings. He would like to attend the Galveston campus of Texas A&M to study in the school’s maritime program.
“I really want to go visit Texas A&M Galveston now,” Covarrubias said. “I want to go to that school because I want to be a ship captain or a first mate, the people who actually drive the vessel … I have to go to college because my parents came here from Mexico with nothing. I don’t want what they did for me to go to waste. I want to pay them back by going to college.”