Editor’s Note: February 27 through March 3 is Texas Public Schools Week, and we are celebrating by sharing personal stories throughout HISD on how public education is helping students succeed. Tweet at us @HoustonISD and share how public education is positive force in you or your student’s life, using the hashtag #PowerofPublic.
College Success Adviser Victoria Salinas holds court in the middle of a brightly painted classroom at Austin High, fielding inquiries about tax forms and deadlines as students with laptops occupy nearby couches. Others wander in with questions that could propel them to a very different future than the one they imagined for themselves.
One of those students was Nataly Degollado. Two years ago, the 18-year-old had a baby. She struggled to balance school and her daughter, but even on her hardest days, she never gave up.
“My mom would tell me, ‘You’re doing it for her,’ ” Nataly said.
She went to the college center with a FAFSA in hand and plans to get certified in cosmetology — to her, it was the fastest way to a paycheck. But the college success team at Austin pushed her to think bigger. They helped her discover another passion: teaching. Salinas, who has helped to more than double the college application rate at Austin, sat down with Nataly to fill out forms for four-year colleges. She sees stories like Nataly’s every day.
“Some students think, ‘This is what we do, this is what’s traditional, this is what’s expected of me,’ ” said Salinas, a first-generation college student herself. The biggest challenge is changing how students think about what’s possible. “I’ve focused on them having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.”
Nataly’s mother was also an inspiration. She was a single mother, Nataly said, and “now, she has bought her own house, and she’s a teacher for special education.”
Nataly has been accepted to both University of Houston-Downtown and Texas Southern University and plans to become a Spanish teacher.
“My mother is proud of me. She tells me, ‘I know you can do it.’ ”