HISD opened its third of seven Sunrise Centers at the Mission Milby on Wednesday, Oct. 18, with an activity-filled fall festival that included a vendor fair, health screenings, food, a pumpkin patch, and games and giveaways courtesy of the Houston Dynamo.
Sunrise Centers serve to centralize valuable resources for families, and in this case, those in the Milby, Chávez, and Austin High School feeder patterns. While this latest center is new for the District, Mission Milby has been serving Houston’s Greater East End for two decades.
Before becoming the center’s executive director, Maria Aguilar was an administrator and dean of instruction at Milby High School. After retiring in 2014, she wanted to do something to combat the school’s high dropout rate. She joined the mission, and the board created a student intervention program called Mission Opportunity in which juniors and seniors mentor freshman and eighth graders.
“What we’re trying to do is keep the kids at Deady Middle School to go on and transition to high school smoothly and stay in school,” said Aguilar. “I have found through my background in education that freshman year is the hardest year, and that’s when they decide to keep on going or dropout.”
The mission has always been student-focused while also offering free after-school tutoring, food, internet, legal services, classes, and more. Now, through partnering with HISD, the Mission Milby Sunrise Center will be able to offer more comprehensive services for more families.
“It expands the opportunities and partnerships with different companies to be able to help the community—from having parents learning English, having assistance with attorneys for immigration, extra support with after-school daycare, computer classes that enhance the students’ skillset,” said Milby Principal Ruth Peña. “It opens up a lot of different doors for our community.”
In total, there are more than 20 partners taking and expanding this crucial work, including the Houston Food Bank, Justice For All Immigrants, Clothed by Faith, Communities in Schools, and Harris Health.
Including Mission Milby, there will be three Sunrise Centers supporting HISD’s South Division.
“We now have a concentrated effort with multiple partners that really leverages many different supports that the families can come and find in one location,” said South Division Superintendent Imelda de la Guardia. “I think that’s super beneficial, and what a plus for families that really don’t know how to navigate and access some of those resources.”
HISD will launch four more Sunrise Centers throughout the District by November 2023, each with unique focuses curated to serve the surrounding community.
For more information on HISD’s Family and Community Engagement Department, visit the FACE webpage, and for more information on the District’s many valuable community partnerships, visit the Community Partnerships Department webpage.