HISD, mayor to recognize 100-plus seniors headed to nation’s top tier colleges, universities

The Houston Independent School District along with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will recognize 164 graduating scholars headed to the nation’s top-tier colleges and universities during the third annual EMERGE Senior Celebration on Thursday.

Through EMERGE, scholars from 28 high schools have earned the distinction this year of being accepted to colleges and universities including Yale, Harvard, Rice, Brown, Stanford, Smith, Dartmouth, Duke, Wake Forest, Northeastern, Pomona, and  Boston University.

The EMERGE program aims to help 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 Thursday, April 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Rice University in the Tudor Fieldhouse. Mayor Turner is scheduled to speak at the program along with HISD Interim Superintendent Ken Huewitt.

“These young people represent a very promising future not only for their families, as they blaze a path for their siblings and children to follow, but also for our nation,” said HISD Board of Education President Manuel Rodriguez Jr. “They represent what this country is all about: that even from the most humble beginnings, greatness can be achieved through perseverance and resolution. All it takes is the right opportunity, and EMERGE is just that.”

Among the students being honored at the event is Lesbia Espinal Rodriguez, valedictorian of Madison High School. A native of Honduras, Rodriguez learned English in HISD and attended Anderson Elementary School and Johnston Middle School. Rodriguez will be the first in her family to attend college. She plans to attend Brandeis University, a private liberal arts college where she received a scholarship that will cover full tuition and fees.

This school year, EMERGE expanded to all high schools in HISD, beginning with the sophomore class. The expansion was funded by a $5.5 million grant from the Houston Endowment. Students in the program participate in college admissions workshops, SAT boot camps and college tours designed to familiarize them with campus life. The previous graduating class of EMERGE received an average of $50,000 in financial aid and scholarship offers per year to attend top tier universities.

“Our students can go to their dream college, especially our first-generation college students,” Huewitt said. “As we motivate our students to set higher expectations for themselves, they see that education is the key to their future success. I’m proud of where these students are today and where they are headed.”