HISD students get a jump on college planning with unique summer program at Rice

This summer, HISD sophomores and freshmen are giving college readiness a summer camp spin with Connectrix at Rice University, a program designed to establish comprehensive support for underrepresented early high school students that will prepare them to choose, apply to, and attend college after graduation.

Connectrix functions similarly to Rice’s freshman orientation program, O-Week. Participants spend the week staying in dorms and acquainting themselves with college life in between seminars and activities focused on the application process, financial aid, resume building, and more. Students also participate in fun camp-like activities like making s’mores, scavenger hunts, a talent show, and an “Extravagant Evening” out in Houston’s theater district. 

The program acquaints students with Rice student advisors studying a variety of academic disciplines who use their first-hand knowledge to guide participants into comfortable familiarity with the college application process. Students learn about scholarships, crafting effective admissions essays, SAT and ACT prep, and how best to advocate for themselves on their way to the university of their dreams.

“Like it or not, there are other students who have access to these resources much earlier on,” said Connectrix Program Coordinator Jaquelyne Bardales. “There’s a gap within education resources, and that’s what organizations like Connectrix try to do, to close that gap. These students are more than capable, and they definitely want to go to college, they just don’t know how.”

In addition to invaluable information sessions, the students have the opportunity to bond with other participants and advisors with similar goals and backgrounds.

“A lot of [the students] have expressed that it’s the first time that they’ve felt represented,” said Program Coordinator Cole Holladay. “For a lot of them, in their schools, they’re in the minority, and seeing other students who look like them and think like them and seeing advisors that share similar backgrounds helps them realize, ‘Hey, I can do this, I can go to college.’”

Students apply to the Connectrix program by submitting a written application telling coordinators about themselves, their plans for the future, and why they want to take part in the program. This year, Connectrix admitted 135 students to their three summer cohorts, more than twice the largest number of attendees in previous years.

Yates High School rising sophomore Israel Bailey was skeptical about Connectrix when the program’s representatives came to talk at his school but was pleasantly surprised at how much he was able to get out of the experience. The future Business Management student, who wants to use his education to open a fast food restaurant chain, now has a working knowledge of the schools that offer financial aid best suit his goals.

Bradley Hamilton is a Rice alumnus and serves on the Connectrix Board of Directors. Hamilton lauds the benefits of programs like HISD’s Emerge and has noticed that introducing students to college resources earlier in their high school careers sets them up for success.

“Some of our students do end up at Rice, but a lot of them end up at other colleges and universities that they never would have considered, otherwise,” Hamilton said. “We see a lot of our students taking on leadership opportunities in school and taking their interests more seriously throughout their high school journey.”

This programming is made possible by a partnership between HISD’s Postsecondary Programming team and Discover U. For additional information about programming and initiatives from the Office of College Career & Military Readiness, visit their website.

To learn more about Connectrix and apply for next year’s summer program, visit their website.