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SAISD college tours highlight spring break for top juniors and their parents

Parents and students who thought they could not afford college received a pleasant surprise this spring break. They learned there are top-tier colleges and universities who will meet admitted students’ demonstrated need up to 100 percent.

“There are many colleges outside of Texas who are willing to pay top money to send our children to their colleges and providing them with opportunities I never imagined,” said Burbank HS parent Lino Soliz.

Soliz and his son were among 80 students and their parents who visited colleges and universities this past week as part of San Antonio ISD’s “Pipeline for College Success” program. Many of the students – all high-achieving juniors – will be the first in their families to attain college degrees.

Half of the students visited institutions in the Washington, D.C., area, including Duke, Georgetown and John Hopkins universities. The other half visited colleges in California, including the Claremont Colleges, Occidental College and the University of Southern California.

Each of the schools visited were selected strategically by staff members in SAISD’s College and Career Readiness program because they are known to be successful in retention and graduation rates for first-generation college students.

As result, schools that were once thought out of range are now becoming a possibility for the students.

“Colleges I never thought of putting on my list are there now,” said Sam Houston HS junior Charles Ware.

His mother, Taska Ware, admitted that attending the tours with her son made her more comfortable with the idea of sending him to school out of state. “You never know what’s out there until you experience it,” she said.

“This trip gave me a better understanding of what this world has to offer.”
~ Roel Reyna, Brackenridge HS

“Spring break is a prime time for visiting colleges and checking out which pique your interest,” said Dr. Linda Vargas-Lew, director of the College and Career Readiness program. “Between taking standardized tests and keeping up with grades, visiting colleges is critical before making a decision to apply and enroll.”

“It’s nice to research colleges online, but so much more valuable to actually visit the colleges and to speak with students already at those universities,” Gerardo Arizpe, another Burbank HS parent, readily agreed. “Truly an extraordinary experience for our kids.”

During the tours, students and their parents also learned what universities expect in the college application process – timely information for students who will soon be filling out college applications.

“This trip provided me with not only exposure to colleges and universities on the West Coast but also with insight about the college application process and strategies to ensure college acceptance wherever I choose to go,” said Travis Early College HS student Graciela Camacho.

In addition, students also received a small taste of what it may be like to live away from home for the first time. For some, the idea of becoming more independent came with the realization of the importance of bonding with classmates. Although the lesson was learned on these trips, it hopefully will be applied again later as a college student.

“I got to meet interesting people and to grow with them as we learned to be independent away from home,” said Leslie Avila, a junior from Travis.

Burbank HS junior Nimsi Coronado echoed a similar sentiment, “The students you travel with, you may or may not know them from previous events, but when you’re with them basically 24/7, you begin to know them. With us, we just became family.”

Summing up the tours, Ruth Bixcul, a St. Philip’s Early College HS parent, called the experience “a stepping stone.”

“We are fortunate to provide this unique experience to our students, so they can see firsthand and assess whether college is a possible environment for a successful four-year academic and social experience,” said Dr. Vargas-Lew.

The eye-opening trips may even have had a broader impact on students and their parents.

“This trip gave me a better understanding of what this world has to offer,” said Brackenridge HS student Roel Reyna.

The spring break trips were made possible by a grant from the Valero Energy Foundation, with support from the SAISD Foundation. Additionally, a third group of about 40 students will be taking college tours in June to visit schools in New York and New England, while other students will go on in-state trips – for a goal of getting 250 students on college tours this year.

To see photos of the spring break college tours, and to follow the June trips or learn of future opportunities, family, friends and community members may follow the College and Career Readiness Department on social media: @SAISDCCR on Twitter and @SAISD_CCR on Instagram.

Georgetown University USC
Forty juniors visited schools in the Washington, D.C., area, including Duke, Georgetown (pictured) and John Hopkins universities.

 

An additional 40 students toured colleges in California, including the Claremont Colleges, Occidental College and the University of Southern California (pictured).