HISD to recognize 99 seniors headed to nation’s top tier colleges and universities

The Houston Independent School District will pay tribute Tuesday to 99 graduating scholars from 24 high schools during the second annual EMERGE Senior Awards Ceremony.

Through EMERGE, the scholars have earned the distinction this year of being accepted to colleges and universities such as MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Rice, Smith, Stanford, Tufts, and Yale. As a whole, the group has been awarded more than $20 million in scholarships and financial aid, with the majority of students receiving individual financial packages totaling upwards of $40,000 per year.

“This program is simply extraordinary because it grooms students, particularly first-generation college students, for success by setting high expectations,” said HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, who will speak at the awards ceremony. “As we lead these students to success, we are creating a cycle of excellence that allows others students to believe that they, too, can attend their dream college.”

The EMERGE program aims to helps low-income, high-potential students gain admission to and graduate from Ivy League and other top tier colleges and universities across the nation. The EMERGE scholars will be recognized for their dedication and hard work during a banquet scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at The Westin Oaks Galleria, 5011 Westheimer Road.

Among the students being honored at the event is Leticia Ortega, valedictorian at Chavez High School. Raised by parents who have an elementary school education, Ortega knew she wanted more for her life.

Ortega joined EMERGE when the program first launched in 2013, and she went on to earn top marks in all of her Advanced Placement courses and a high SAT score of 2170. She now has the distinction of becoming the first Chavez student to be accepted to Harvard, where she plans to study engineering.

“I am extremely proud to see the seniors in EMERGE accomplish exactly what they set out to do,” said HISD Assistant Superintendent of College Readiness Rick Cruz, who created and oversees the EMERGE program. “Our college coordinators and program managers were a tremendous resource to these students when applying to top colleges, but the students truly put in the work needed to reach their goals.”