Standing among his peers, Luis Correa looks as unassuming as your typical high school junior. He seems quiet and patient, and obviously interested in what others have to say.
When speaking, his words clearly express his ambitions as a first generation college student, and his plans for life afterwards. But underneath it all lies something unique for a 16 year old.
Correa can quite possibly sum up the intentions of the rest of a special group of students from Economedes High School when he says he is just waiting for the one opportunity that will allow him to break out of his shell, and put it him on the right track to finding his place in the world.
For Correa, it could possibly mean a career in juvenile psychology. For others, like Alonso Gonzalez, 17, it can mean getting on the right path to NASA by studying aerospace engineering.
Correa says it begins with higher education. He wants to study psychology along with engineering, and has a plan on how to get there.
“It’s to begin to understand how to create a new journey,” Correa said. “Being independent will help with a positive view of college.”
Economedes High has introduced a new program for a group of more than 40 concurrent enrollment seniors who will attend the University of Texas-Pan American and take the classes in a complete university setting Monday through Thursday during the regular semester.
The students will get the chance to mingle with those at the university level, and receive instruction from professors on campus. On Fridays, they will go to UTPA to have time to use the library and other resources for self-study.
The program launched Monday, Jan. 18, before the start of the UTPA spring semester so the students could get acquainted with the university before classes began Jan. 19.
“My parents struggled, and as Hispanics we all struggle but I don’t want to. … I know the true nature of work,” said Correa, who plans to be a first generation college student. “I like adventures, and I will use this one to advance to higher education.”
The degree plans and eventual career choices vary among the 40 or so students who are currently participating. Some want to study kinesiology, and become coaches. Other degree choices include studying biology and psychology and biology in order to become a forensic scientist. Others intend to study criminal justice in hopes of making it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation following their college career.
As a starting point, the students will take basics classes at the university. They will continue with classes for half of the day at JEHS, have lunch, and then depart for the university for classes between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
“I’m kind of nervous, but the whole goal is to become somebody, and better myself,” said Isamer Lopez, 17, who plans to study nursing. “It will take a hard effort.”
The goal, according to the program founders at Economedes, is to form a partnership with UTPA that will transition the students to the completion of a four-year degree. In turn, JEHS will assist students in qualifying for the UTPA U.S. Tier Scholarships including the Presidential Scholarship ($6,000 per year) and Distinguished Scholarship ($4,000).
“We came and thought about what is it that we want to do as a school to raise the level of rigor, increase the number of students going to the university, and going beyond the college readiness standard,” said Economedes Principal Gloria C. Rivera. “We want them to be more than college ready, we want them to be college experienced.”